By now you probably have seen a commercial for a meal kit service. You know...Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and I am sure many many many more. According to some stats I found, 1 in 4 of the people reading this (internet users) have tried one of these services or are using them on a regular basis. It's one of the fastest growing ecommerce sectors out there.
I will admit that this past summer I had to check it out for myself so I ordered a box from Hello Fresh. I was feeling like the home delivery meal kit craze must be why we are seeing a decrease in members among CSA farms locally and regionally. Right? Maybe. Maybe not. Here at Park Ridge we recently saw our first decrease in member sign ups ever: 275 members in 2017 down from 290 in 2016. So I just had to find out for myself what this meal kit thing was all about.
My Hello Fresh box with 3 meals in it cost me $59.95. When the box arrived I was excited. Yup excited. Just like our members are each week when they come to share pickup! As I dug through the box I did start to feel immense sadness in regards to the waste I was creating. Cardboard box with another piece of cardboard, two huge plastic ice packs, some paper fluff for padding....it was SO much packaging waste. And I hadn't even started to unwrap the food packaging. I quickly put everything back in the box and hid it in the farm cooler until I was able to find the time to prepare the meals. I definitely didn't need anyone seeing that I had ordered a meal kit from Hello Fresh. What kind of farmer would they think I am!
When I got to making the meals, I realized that it was...super easy! Oh oh. This was not the results I was looking for in my secret research. The recipe card was fun to follow and straightforward. I felt like a chef! The meals were healthy and overall good in flavor. My biggest hang ups were that NO ingredients were organic and I had no idea who the farmer was that grew the vegetables or fruit. Interesting since these companies promote themselves as "supporting the local farmers". What farmers? The ones in California?
So as I munched on my meatless tacos (which by the way were delicious but all the meals left me hungry) I had a moment of clarity. I don't think that meal kit services are totally to blame for CSA decline but they are playing a BIG role in it. Why? Because they make cooking EASY and they minimize food waste. They provide you with just the right amount of ingredients so that you are not left with any leftovers to manage. They remind people that cooking can be fun and simple. Cooking food brings people together and meals are meant to be shared with others.
As I pondered our share program and what it is that makes us different from a meal kit service, it became clear to me that our shares have MUCH more to offer than a meal kit on so many levels.
And when it comes down to the cooking part of the picture, a farm share has more heart and soul than any meal kit could ever have! When you gather in the kitchen with your family to prepare and eat a meal together what would you rather talk about, the unknown farm OR your farm. The one with familiar farmer faces and people you can trust to grow and handle your food.
Soooo in the end...farm share WINS! At least in my opinion anyways :)
Over and out!