Grocery Games: Champine putting her bagging skills to the test

MANCHESTER - Eighteen-year-old Brooke Champine can pack a full bag of groceries in about 52 seconds. She'll find out this weekend if her quick pace at the checkout line can take her all the way to Las Vegas.

On Saturday, Oct. 21, Champine will represent the Manchester Shaw's at the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association (VRGA) 30th annual "Best Bagger" competition in South Burlington. She will compete against other Vermonters to see who's the best grocery bagger in the state.

The winner of VRGA's competition will fly out to Las Vegas to represent the state at the national bagging competition in February, hosted by the National Grocers Association (NGA). The winner of the February competition will take home a $10,000 cash prize according to NGA's website. The Vermont winner will receive $250.

"I thought the [competition] would be just fun to try," Champine said. "A few of my friends who work here were doing it, so I decided to give it a go."

According to customer service manager Rhonda Roberts, the store had sign-ups available for anyone interested. Champine was the store's winner and proceeded to compete in a smaller Middlebury competition and won there, making her the first employee from the Manchester store to make it this far.

"We've never had anyone go as far in the bagging competition as Brooke has," Roberts said. "We're really excited and we hope she makes it to Vegas."

Baggers are judged by their speed, the distribution of weight between bags, their bag building technique as well as their style, attitude, and appearance. For competition purposes, each contestant is given a reusable bag and they all have the same products to bag.

"I'm a little nervous and it's bigger than the other ones I've done," Champine said.

In South Burlington, each contestant will bag on a stage before a crowd. The event is free and open to the public. Food used in the bagging competition will be donated to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. Prizes will be donated by Shaw's and Price Chopper supermarkets.

Champine has been practicing and is hoping to cut down her time even more. If she makes it to Las Vegas, Champine hopes to invest in the $10,000 toward her college education.

Currently, she is dividing her time between her job at Shaw's while pursuing photography and taking a few online classes at Full Sail University, studying music business.

She has plans to move to Florida to attend the university in person and continue her photography.

"The music scene in Florida is much more diverse and there's much more going on," Champine said.

In 2016, Spencer Balderas of the Colchester Shaw's was crowned as the best bagger in the state and he placed fifth nationally. In 2015, Bethany Berger also of the same Shaw's store was crowned the best bagger in the Green Mountain State and she placed second place at the national competition.

The Vermont Retailer and Grocers Association represents approximately 800 Vermont retail stores and 250 suppliers to the industry, including members of the Vermont Specialty Food Association.


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