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National food co-op’s local sites see high demand for healthy food

A line of cars snaked through the parking lot of the East Grand Forks Senior Center and out into an alley Friday morning with drivers setting their eyes on the prize -- boxes of frozen chicken.

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Lisa Atkinson, site coordinator for the East Grand Forks Bountiful Baskets food co-op, and other volunteers unload 20 lb. boxes of frozen chicken breasts to be distributed to members Friday morning at the East Grand Forks Senior Citizens Center. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

A line of cars snaked through the parking lot of the East Grand Forks Senior Center and out into an alley Friday morning with drivers setting their eyes on the prize - boxes of frozen chicken.

Ninety-five boxes of chicken fillets were packed into waiting cars by volunteers from Bountiful Baskets , a co-op organization with food distribution sites throughout 24 states.

"I'm getting my workout," said volunteer Casandra Schaumburg as she lifted a box.

Lisa Atkinson, site coordinator for East Grand Forks, said the chicken pickup was a special event.

"It's the first time we've done the chicken," she said as volunteers placed the remaining boxes into vehicles.

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Normally, volunteers line up inside the senior center to pluck fruits and vegetables from cases and assemble nearly 100 baskets every other week for those looking to serve some healthier options at their dinner table.

Bountiful Baskets seeks to provide low-cost options for fruit and vegetables, breads and other food items through its co-op structure. A basket starts at $15 for produce - $25 if a contributor wants all organic items. Other extras such as bread can be added on for an additional cost.

The organization runs two sites in the Grand Forks area - one in Emerado, N.D., and the other in East Grand Forks, which has been operational for less than a year. The sites alternate weekends with Emerado pickup occurring this past Saturday and East Grand Forks set to distribute this coming Saturday.

There is a heavy demand for the produce, which is ordered online through Bountiful Basket's website , according to Atkinson.

"We run out in as little as five minutes, but usually within an hour for sure," Atkinson said of the available online orders.

Once ordered, contributors must arrive at their designated pickup site on time and with their receipt. Baskets must be purchased through the website and those not picked up are donated.

Basket setup starts about an hour before pickup and all volunteers doing the setup are contributors, Atkinson said.

"We line up all the cases - it's called trick-or-treat style, meaning we lay out all the basket items in boxes first - and then we carry empty baskets and grab one of each item or however many are appropriate based on the week," Atkinson said.

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Between 10 and 20 people show up to load the baskets each week, which takes about 30 to 45 minutes, she added.

A list of other basket pickup sites throughout the states of North Dakota and Minnesota can be found online at http://goo.gl/KjjoEE .

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Members of the East Grand Forks Bountiful Baskets food co-op line up as volunteer Cassandra Schaumburg loads boxes of chicken breast fillets to the waiting customers. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Related Topics: FOOD
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