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Food co-op offers discounts in exchange for service time

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TOWNSEND — “If you eat, you qualify!”

At Tub’s Food Serve Co-op in Townsend, food may be purchased in a slightly different way.

Instead of trips to the supermarket and long walks up and down the aisles, Tub’s Food Serve allows customers to buy packages of quality food at a substantial discount, in exchange for two hours of community service.

“Overall, the package (costs) generally half of what it does at the store,” said Dave Lamoureaux, one of the co-op organizers. The process is easy, he said, and can pay off in reduced food cost and transportation bills.

Anyone can take part in this smart alternative to food shopping. Tub’s Co-op is one of over 250 chapters of Serve New England, a group that purchases meats, fruits, vegetables and other staple items in bulk.

Once a month, Lamoureaux travels to Manchester, N.H., to pick up the food ordered through the Townsend chapter. Avis Roy collects the orders and payment two weeks before.

Several different packages are offered each month. The family meal plan includes the makings of four meals for four people. Extra meat can be ordered separately. A 14- to 16-pound turkey with stuffing mix, veggies, apples, rolls and gravy was only $30. Monthly specials may include specialty meats and produce.

The organizers at Tub’s Co-op make it as easy as possible to participate. Order pick-up is one Saturday per month from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Packages are delivered to Atwood Acres and to Greenville, N.H.

“It’s not just the elderly, especially where gas was so high,” said Tubby Boucher, who began the Townsend chapter. “It pays off.” Families and singles use the service as well.

“It’s the ease of getting it,” Lamoureaux said. “It’s a good deal.”

All the organizers praised the quality of the food, saying it was as good if not better than what you can buy at the store. “It’s not donated food,” Lamoureaux said. “They go out and purchase it in bulk.”

If Serve New England is not able to purchase everything advertised in the pre-ordered packages, substitutions will be made. When this happens, Boucher said, “it’s better than what they ordered.”

To qualify for the discounted food, customers need to perform two hours of community service. The organizers said this service is very flexible and many times the community service is already being done as a “favor” to a neighbor.

It could be as simple as taking someone to an appointment or picking things up for a neighbor at the store. Or, the hours could be spent in a more organized activity, like coaching a team or even helping out at the co-op.

Roy said she and some of the other participants bank their extra community service volunteer hours for others to use in case someone couldn’t volunteer during the month.

In exchange for these two hours of service, patrons can order as many packages of food as they need. The cost depends on the packages ordered.

Lamoureaux said he would be happy to see more people take advantage of the program.

“When I’m up at 5 to go to Manchester,” Lamoureaux said, “I’d rather fill the truck. If there’s a bunch more (packages) it’s just a little more time to pack them up.”

For more information on Tub’s Food Co-op please contact Avis Roy at 978-597-6829 or Tubby Boucher at 978-597-6829 or visit the Web site at www.ServeNE.org.