Middle of the Root Launches Spring Meal Kits
Kristi Maier | @triadfoodies
We promised last Thanksgiving to bring you the story of a local non-profit that pairs the convenience of meal kits with helping the food insecure. Middle of the Root is a meal kit delivery service (think Hello Fresh, Blue Apron) but with a local twist. It’s locally owned and operated. Subscribers order a meal, with local, farm fresh products and recipes to go along with them. The organization has just launched its Spring “Meal Kits with Meaning” program. Middle of the Root’s (MOR) vision is to develop a vibrant, sustainable food system that makes fresh, locally grown food accessible throughout Forsyth County.
The mantra is to “explore local food, cook with confidence and support and grow community.” Research shows that there are nearly 65,000 people who are food insecure in Forsyth County. That amounts to 18% of our population that don’t know where their next meal comes from. Founder Ashley Jobe says they want to change that. “The mission is to significantly impact the most food-insecure areas, by creating access to healthy, farm-fresh food and providing both education and empowerment for healthier eating.”
Here’s how it works….Subscribers order a meal kit (as you would with any national brand) that has locally-grown ingredients and locally-made products. These kits haven’t flown across the country on a plane for the past week. The ingredients for the kits are picked up from area farms within days of delivery. Volunteers fill the boxes by hand with much less waste since there’s very few packaged ingredients. You can choose your number of servings (Two/two-serving or one/four or six serving) and meal options (savory, gluten-free, vegetarian). Each recipe card shows you exactly where your food comes from in North Carolina. An example of a savory meat option might be Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes with Wilted Spinach. A breakfast kit is also available with a lower price point. It does not include a recipe and is more of a CSA (community supported agriculture) offering with fresh vegetables, fruits and local products. You can even donate a meal kit to someone else.
The program is now accepting orders for this Spring’s 10-week Meal Kits with Meaning delivery program. With every meal kit purchased, subscribers are helping provider better access to that same food for the underprivileged. Proceeds from the Spring 2017 Meal Kit Program will help fuel Middle of the Root’s Pop-Up Fresh Food Stands. Jobe, says “We plan on bringing local farm-fresh food to our impoverished neighborhoods by setting up mobile carts and temporary stands at locations like bus stops and churches that are convenient to neighborhood residents. There, they will have fresh food to take home and at the same time, we’ll have opportunities to engage with neighbors, build relationships and promote our classes and our meal kit program.”
Jobe adds, “By partly funding our programs through the sale of meal kits with fresh, local ingredients, we also support agriculture in our area, expanding the market for local farmers by connecting them with people who want and need what they grow.” Other programs in the future will include community gardens, farmers’ markets, mentoring partnerships for neighborhood residents with farmers and food business owners, subsidized snacks for after-school programs, and subsidized meal kits. Their programs all share the same goal, which is to increase access to local, fresh food.
Jobe says, “Middle of the Root’s goal is to have 30 subscribers in the Spring Meal Kit With Meaning Program so we can do our impact project. If we hit our goal, we plan to operate ten or more pop-up food stands that last at least two hours, and we hope to connect with approximately 15 people each time. As we increase our understanding of access barriers, as well as neighborhood strengths and resources, we can identify the most effective directions for continued program development.”
Food access became a focal point for Jobe when she attended college in San Francisco and began to explore and become aware of how well-connected the city was. She says, “Local food was abundant because there was a shared value between public and private sectors. Public gardens grew and maintained food just feet away from the restaurants they sold to. The people who volunteered at the gardens became valuable community members who could give back, learn and have new skills. The restaurants didn’t have to go far or pay absurd rates for fresh food.” She says this translated to fair market prices for consumers. “I was a benefactor of all of this. Not changing my diet, just consuming regularly, or so I thought, I started to notice a difference in how I felt and I was losing weight.”
Jobe says when she came back to Winston Salem after receiving her MBA, she was renewed and on a mission to help bring the same type of local community food access to the city where she grew up. “I knew from research that Winston-Salem had some alarming health and food insecurity rates,” she says. Jobe is working on many other projects with key organizations, both public and private, along with people in the city and Forsyth County to build on the impact and to bridge the gap. She says, “We want to connect our communities through food and programs like Meal Kits with Meaning and our Turkey Fundraiser are just the first steps.”
Jobe says truly creating resiliency in these neighborhoods, “It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up.”
Orders for Meal Kits with Meaning close on March 29 and deliveries begin the week of April, 5. There are two payment options, either weekly auto draft or you can pay in-full for a 10% discount. Another meal kit and impact program is planned for the fall and there are volunteer opportunities as well. For more information visit middleoftheroot.org.