The Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op was started locally by Stephanie Volle and Miranda Wagner, who heard about the program from a friend in John Day. (Photo by HARMONY CUSHING)

82 locals took part in the last Bountiful Basket distribution on Aug. 11

By Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

For those wanting to save money on their grocery bill and eat healthier, the Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op (BBFC) is the perfect program.

BBFC is an all-volunteer, non-profit co-op designed to provide contributors with fresh fruit and vegetables every other week.

Local organizers Stephanie Volle and Miranda Wagner held the first distribution on July 28 and it was a rousing success with 64 contributors taking part. The next distribution, held on Aug. 11, had 82 contributors, meaning with the maximum cap set at 96, the local site had just about reached that in only two weeks time.

Getting started
Wagner said she heard about the Bountiful Baskets from friends in John Day and it piqued her interest, so she began looking into what it would take to get a site in Burns.

“We found out that a number of Burns people were driving to Canyon City every other week, so we thought it would be good to get it here,” Wagner said.

She eventually heard back from the co-op and around the end of May, she and Volle began getting it organized locally, which included getting a list of at least 30 people that would contribute. To assure that all sites operate consistently, they attended training at sites in Baker City and Canyon City during the distribution times. With that done, it was time to get the ball rolling in Harney County.
How it works
First of all, each contributor must set up an account online at the BBFC website. The contribution for a Conventional Basket is $15 and Certified Organic Baskets are $25. There is also a $3 fee for first-time contributors for the basket.

All orders are placed online between noon on Monday and 10 p.m. Tuesday, with the produce coming in the following Saturday. Orders are on a first-come, first-served basis, so once the maximum number, 96, is reached no more orders for that site are accepted.

Distributions are held every other week at the Burns site and contributors don’t have to participate every time.

Once the produce arrives, volunteers distribute the items equally between the baskets. As a rule, each basket will include 50 percent fruit and 50 percent vegetables. “We don’t know specifically what we are getting until the Friday night before,” Volle said. The value of the produce that each contributor receives is estimated at between $35 and $50.

The first baskets distributed in Burns included lettuce, potatoes, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, peaches, blueberries, mangoes and more. Both women agreed that not knowing what you’re going to receive is part of the fun. “When you get something you don’t normally buy, it forces you to be creative,” Wagner said. “You branch out to a bigger variety of produce that’s not always available.”

While the produce is distributed in baskets, each contributor needs to take along a sack, box or basket to take the produce home.

Because of the route the delivery truck takes, the produce arrives in town at 2:15 p.m. and can be picked up at 3:15 p.m. at Slater Elementary School. “Channon Rebeiro, the Food Service Director for the schools has been great to work with,” Volle said.

In addition to the produce basket, different add-ons are available such as breads, specialty packs and canning vegetables.

If a basket is not picked up, the food will be delivered to a local fire department.

Making it work
Wagner said they would like to get 10 to 15 volunteers to help out distributing the produce and cleaning up afterward each time. “It really is a fun, social time,” she noted. “People who have tried it once are committed.”
“This is really a benefit for the community,” Volle added. “The people who came in the first time were so excited and very appreciative for bringing the program to Burns.”

To remind people about getting their orders in or to just express an opinion, they have set up a Facebook page: HC Bountiful Baskets.

For more information visit www.bountifulbaskets.org or call Volle at 541-647-4139 or Wagner at 541-678-2056.



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