Popular food co-op needs permit to operate, says County

A food co-operative that brings fresh produce and bread to participants who sign up wants to move into the town of Parker but needs a permit to operate, according to La Paz County.

Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op (BBFC) provides a way for its participants and volunteers to bring healthy fresh organic food to hundreds of communities across America for low prices. Every other week, participants pay either $15 for a regular basket of food or $25 for an organic basket. According to the organizers, it saves people a substantial amount of money for healthy food they may not be able to source or afford in the local area otherwise.

But the effort to bring the co-op into the town of Parker hit an obstacle when La Paz County Health Department indicated they would not sign off on the idea unless the volunteers bought a permit:

“La Paz County Health Department requires all food vendors to obtain a permit. Bountiful Baskets chose not to pursue a permit with the county health department. While La Paz County Health Department supports healthy food choices, it’s important for residents to know where their food is coming from and what ingredients are included. Some of the food items (bread, granola, cookies) with Bountiful Baskets were not labeled per FDA regulations.” – La Paz County Health Dept.

There already is a BBFC site sorting and distributing baskets to participants at Manataba Park at Four Corners every other week. But the organizers would like to bring it into the town of Parker, because there is no light at the current location and they can only be there early in the morning when it’s dark much of the year.

In addition, the organizers say they have started to label the baked items, though they believe they were already in compliance because the food is not being purchased at the individual sites, only distributed there:

“Truly the only purchase taking place is that by ALL of us together at the bakery, however explaining to all these government types that the items are not packaged for sale because they are not being sold is exasperating, time consuming and all we have been working on all week.” – BBFC Arizona on Facebook

The Health Department says BBFC is welcome to pool its resources and get a food vendor permit at any time, and that its operations will be perfectly legal after that time.

The organizers contend that the idea of the co-op is to pool money to buy food together, and merely wish to distribute it to the participants who already made a collective purchase.

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