Bountiful Baskets Food Cooperative has been offering fresh produce since 2011 to Falcon and Peyton residents. The co-op distributes baskets of produce at various times throughout the week at Woodmen Hills Elementary School. Participants order and “contribute” money for their produce items online.
The co-op has outlined the process on its website at http://bountifulbaskets.org. Bountiful Baskets operates in 16 states, and each site regulates the days and times participants can monetarily contribute for their produce and the days on which they can pick up the produce.
Sally Stevens and Tanya Jolly are the founders of the web-based co-op, and Mandy Wright is the site director for Falcon and Peyton.
Wright heard about the co-op from a friend, joined and ended up driving to the Colorado Springs pickup site for two weeks to get her produce. She then decided to assess interest in having a Falcon/Peyton location, she said. Bountiful Baskets co-op requires that 25 to 30 people show interest in receiving the produce, and a business or organization (excluding churches) must be willing to provide pickup space for no charge. Carrie Lukins, also a site coordinator, said churches are excluded because of the co-op’s nonprofit status.
Wright trained for three weeks before opening the Falcon site. They offer 95 baskets, and Wright said, “We do sell out almost every time.”
Each basket is $15; $25 for organic produce.
“It saves me a ton of money – I don't think people realize how much,” Wright said. Wright said she doesn't spend as much on food because she doesn't go to the grocery store as often.
“We save at least $200 a month,” said Leanne Nipp, who has a family of five. “Our grocery bill went from $1,000 down to $800 after we started Bountiful Baskets.” According to the website, participants get about $50 worth of groceries for $15.
The produce is gathered in a large laundry basket, which is packed full of fresh fruits and vegetables. The laundry baskets are used again, so participants must bring their own bag to load the produce from the basket.
Wright said another benefit of the co-op is learning about new foods. “It's something I've really enjoyed,” she said. “For one thing, you never know what you're going to get here, so you're forced to try new things.” Lukins said, “I had never done fennel – I had stayed away from it before. I did a fennel stew last time. And I could never get my son to eat canned asparagus. Now, he can't get enough!” Volunteers often trade recipes and ideas while they set up and distribute the food each week.
Because it is a co-op, there are no paid employees. The founders ask that contributors/participants volunteer at least once every seven times they pick up food. Volunteers receive free goodies on the day they volunteer: either a large item like a pineapple or two smaller items like tangerines.
Details and pickup times are spelled out on the website: http://bountifulbaskets.org.