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Food box systems provide members with a weekly box of seasonal vegetables and fruit, plus other locally produced food such as honey, preserves, bread, eggs and dairy products. The most common and easiest system to manage is the standard box system which offers a mix of season produce. Many people appreciate this as it helps them to understand the local growing cycle, to eat in season and also try some unusual foods and varieties. When there is a glut of one particular food or unusual items, the box system manager often includes interesting recipes. It is possible to order different sized boxes depending on household size.
Some larger and more complex groups offer an ordering service whereby the consumer can choose types of foods and quantities they prefer. This is a more consumer-oriented approach, whereas the standard box system is more farmer-oriented – consumers accepting what the farmer can produce. The ordering system is preferred by some as it overcomes the unpredictability of meal planning that arises with the standard box system. It also avoids wastage of food when items arrive that no-one in the household likes. Generally orders are placed for the following week when the box arrives. Some groups now offer internet ordering.
Box systems support and encourage farmers to become more chemical free and polycultural. To generate the diversity required to meet consumer needs, often products are sourced from a number of local farmers. Food box systems can be coordinated by an individual, a cooperative, or a farmer. The boxes are distributed weekly either directly to members or to a distribution node. Members can also arrange a roster to pick up the boxes directly from the farmer. This is one of the simplest community food systems to establish.