At least 50 early risers stood patiently in line at 8:15 a.m. on a Saturday, baskets in hand, waiting to pick up their groceries at the Bellaire Professional Center parking lot at 5521 Bellaire Dr. S.
The Fort Worth residents are non-traditional shoppers. Instead of Kroger, Trader Joes, or Tom Thumb, the customers get their produce from a not-for-profit group called Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op.
For $15, they received a basket of in-season fruits and vegetables. Last Saturday, co-op participants received a basket of corn, carrots, squash, kale, cucumber, pears, apples, bananas, watermelon and tomatoes.
Each time they pick up a basket they receive a different mix of fruits and veggies based on what is in season.
The co-op, created by Tanya Jolly and Sally Stevens, has sites around the United States, according to their website.
Site coordinator Janet Wright, one of Bountiful Basket’s founders, has been running the Bellaire Professional site for two years.
“They just wanted to get a cheaper option to get produce on our tables,” she said. “We basically have as much power as a grocery store.”
On Monday, people can order their basket online by making a $15 “contribution” (they don’t like to call it a ‘purchase’ since it is a co-op), in addition to a surcharge based on how close the person is to their distribution center.
Buying in bulk and volunteers are the key to Bountiful’s success, Wright said.
The co-op is completely run by volunteers, and customers say it is a cheaper alternative than the grocery store.
“I like it because I get stuff that I normally wouldn’t buy” said Kathy Hopkins-Davis, a volunteer and participant in the co-op.
She said she cooked all kinds of vegetables she never would have bought had she just gone to the grocery store—like cauliflower and squash.
“I finally cooked my butternut squash,” she said with a smile. “It was so pretty.”
Hopkins-Davis is one of the many co-op participants who decide to give back to Bountiful Baskets by helping at one of the distribution sites.
Volunteers showed up Saturday at 7:15 a.m. to unload the produce from a huge truck before people arrived to pick up their baskets at 8:15 a.m.
Hopkins-Davis said Bountiful Baskets is easy because she gets almost everything in one place.
“It saves so much time going to the store,” she said. “I hardly ever go to the grocery store anymore.”
Some participants, like one Saturday volunteer Rebecca Freer, pay an extra $10 for a completely organic basket.
“I think it makes a difference in terms of your long term health,” she said.
Freer picked up her third-ever basket, an organic basket that featured a different selection of fruits and vegetables from the standard basket, like asparagus.
People can also pay to order special extras ahead of time, like full cases of certain fruits and vegetables, different kinds of bread, and coconut oil.
Wright said the Bellaire Professional Center site, which can do up to 96 baskets each time, normally sells between 60 and 70 baskets.
The Bellaire Professional Site has pick up every other Saturday at 8:15 a.m. For more information, see their Facebook group, or the Bountiful Baskets website.