Jessica Lewis, a 19-year-old Spokane resident, recently won $5,000 by placing second in a national grocery bagging competition sponsored by ConAgra Foods. A North Central High School graduate, Lewis attends Spokane Community College and works at Yoke’s Fresh Market on North Foothills Drive.
Q. How did you learn you were good at bagging?
A. I competed in the Yoke’s company competition three years ago. I had fun and I decided to do it the next year. So that led me to keep doing it, to try to finish first. Last year I won the top Yoke’s bagger contest. And that let me go and win the top state prize (in Olympia).
That let me go to the nationals in Las Vegas.
Q. What do they judge you on, during the nationals?
A. You go through two rounds of bagging, filling three bags with different products. They measure speed, but also weight. The goal is to have the three bags filled and weigh the same as possible. They also score you on professionalism.
Q. So how did you do in Las Vegas?
A. During my first heat I was bagging and going awfully fast. I accidentally hit my elbow on a metal rack (one of two that bag handles are looped over). That hurt and made my time much slower. It was 61 seconds.
On my second heat I did much better. I finished in 45 seconds. The average time for the 21 contestants was around 55 seconds.
And I lost to the winner (who earned $10,000) by one-third of a point.
Q. Did you do anything before the event to train for it?
A. I studied photos from earlier years to see the kinds of products people have to bag. I also received from the organizers three of the reusable bags they have us use in the event. So I was able to work on my time.
Q. Are there any trick foods or items you have to bag?
A. I knew from other years that some baggers lost by not bagging a single Slim Jim. So when we had to bag a Slim Jim, I made sure I did.
Q. What will you do with your winnings?
A. I’ll pay off my car and then put the rest in my savings.
Q. What’s your favorite for bagging, paper or plastic?
A. I guess I’d say paper bags, because they can stand upright and let you bag quickly.
Q. Are you a bit tired already of bagger fame?
A. A lot of customers know me and have asked how I did. Or they know I won, so every day someone brings it up. It is a bit of a drain now.
Q. Instead of bagging, what’s the best part of the job at Yoke’s for you?
A. I really enjoy working, on weekends, in the floral department. It’s a self-paced job. And that lets me manage my time. I enjoy that.
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