Baskit: The Radical, Socialist, Pay-What-You-Can Produce Delivery
By Haley Pollock
Remember when Mister Rogers once spoke to children who felt scared by unexpected and traumatic events, and he said, “Look for the helpers”? Meaning, when stuff is awful, as it so frequently is lately, seeing people who are helping others makes it less scary, more hopeful. Adrian Coyne and his team of helpers at Baskit are some of those people.
Shortly after shelter-in-place made many incomes crash and burn, Adrian Coyne was first looking to alleviate food insecurity amongst his immediate community. He managed to get a few folks to go in on some bulk produce orders, now much more available with the closure of many eateries, buy up what was available, and share it. Unexpectedly the idea snowballed; every time he made an order, more people were asking to join in.
This is when Baskit was born. Baskit is not a CSA, not a subscription, not a store. Baskit is a “pay what you can” produce delivery service. I use the service myself. Covid pay cuts and lost income means my family can’t afford our weekly meal kit boxes anymore, so Baskit has been a real windfall. I pay what I can and every Saturday two big paper sacks with produce are left on my doorstep, with a nice text to let me know they’re there.
What makes Baskit work is that the people who can pay fair market value or more for their produce make up the difference for those who cannot pay the retail prices of the food they receive. Donations are also helpful whether it’s donated foods or cash donations. Between the generosity of financially secure patrons and the volunteer staff, Baskit is able to give otherwise unemployed people a job and give families in need some added nutrition.
The Baskit team is composed of Adrian Coyne and his crew, which include a lot of volunteers, but they also employ former Uber and Lyft drivers who are now scrambling for work. Coyne encourages people who can afford to work without cash payment (everyone gets produce though) to do so, but he does employ the unemployed and underemployed in need of monetary compensation. He employs some folks with criminal records, and prioritizes hiring people from underserved and marginalized communities. Guess who isn’t on the payroll? Adrian Coyne, that’s who. It’s a labor of love, something that desperately needed to be done, filling in the gaps that social assistance programs can’t fill. How many times have we all heard of someone who makes too much to get SNAP but still can’t afford healthy food?
With Baskit, you don’t get to swap out your sweet potatoes for Brussels sprouts. There’s no eggs, no kombucha, no free promotional vegan granola bars. It’s just produce, and you get what you get. It’s good produce though, I never get rotten fruit.
As a Baskit customer I really like, that unless there’s an item like a carton of strawberries, the packing is plastic free. My grapes, green beans, and mushrooms come in lunch sized brown bags. This is seriously a no-frills operation. No insulated logo totes or giant cardboard boxes here. The items are the more common things you’d see in a produce section of a conventional grocery store. Think Safeway, not Berkeley Bowl. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, peppers, stone fruit, apples, citrus, and, refreshingly, avocados and sometimes mangos. It’s a generous amount too. It works well for my family. We may not get the romanesco or fingerling potatoes we might have bought had we the money for them, but it’s all usable, if basic. If someone was very allergic to many things, I wouldn’t recommend this service, but for most of us it’s more than fine.
While I rely on this service to make my meals of cheap protein and staple grains a little healthier and more flavorful, I will probably continue to use it if I ever have the income to no longer need it, and I’ll pay more when I do. Baskit isn’t just cheap food delivered. Baskit is a whole social justice movement, and worth supporting.
Baskit currently serves San Francisco, and the East Bay from Pinole to Orinda and San Leandro, but Adrian Coyne relies on Facebook and the Baskit website to reach new potential customers. The Baskit team would like to be able to get to more folks who don’t have internet access or speak English as a first language, in a greater capacity. They’re not interested in expanding into affluent areas that don’t really need the service. The objective here is help and nutrition, not a massive company that lines the pockets of the folks at the top while the people who actually do the labor are paid as little as the law allows.
For this reason, I recommend readers check out Baskit online via Facebook or Baskitfresh.com and if you can support financially, do that. If not, let your friends and neighbors know. It’s rare to see an endeavor such as this, and to see people who say they fight for social justice actually doing that work. If you lead a nonprofit that serves marginalized communities in the Bay Area and would possibly like to collaborate efforts, now is the time to reach out to the Baskit crew.
As for me, I’ll be making Shakshuka with the red peppers, tomatoes, and onions I got in my Baskit bags this week, because eggs are cheap and kids eat a lot. Supporting social justice really doesn’t get easier than this, and it’s tasty too. Be a helper.