Monday, May 30, 2011

Organic food, only a click away.

As my last post described, eating fresh veggies (and some fruit) is the cornerstone to any healthy diet from the USDA guidelines to the Paleo Diet and so on. With all I’ve read and learned over the past couple of years, I am fully convinced that seasonal local produce, grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, is best for our personal health and the health of people in farming communities. It is also the most sustainable way of growing food now and for years to come. In the past, accessing organic (or beyond organic) foods was challenging due to lack of availability and the corresponding high price. Nowadays, there are many options for even the busiest people to get high quality, fresh, organic foods.

Joining a CSA* is great option, but I’ve recently stumbled across something that may be better for busy people who want organic food but don’t want to add an extra chore like picking up a CSA box or taking a trip to the farmers market. There are now several online businesses that allow you to place a customizable order online and have the food delivered to your doorstep. Many of these businesses focus on organic foods and offer more than just produce. These services can actually eliminate your weekly shopping trips altogether.

With a little bit of internet searching, I was able to find organic food delivery options throughout the country – from the SF Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle, to Austin, D.C., Chicago, and more! Some online stores work directly with local farmers and strive to supply most of their food from within the region. Others are more focused on variety and meeting the demands of customers even if it means getting produce from Mexico or beyond.

Each service allows customers to place orders that arrive as frequently as once a week. The specific foods you receive can be changed each week online through your account. Those services that provide more than just produce allow you to search for foods based on allergies, such as wheat or dairy intolerance, which can make shopping much easier. All of the services I viewed deliver food to your doorstep even if you are not at home. Care is taken to preserve food that may be left out for hours. If you prefer to keep your food indoors you can give them a key to your house or garage.

Planet Organics, which delivers to the SF Bay Area, focuses heavily on locally-sourced foods. In addition to produce, they offer meat and seafood, eggs, milk, and processed organics like cereal and pasta. Planet Organics uses about a dozen labels to quickly identify vegetarian options, common allergens, certified organic foods, and even grass-fed or pasture-raised animal products. Another neat option is the ability to add products to a favorites list. If you really love blackberries, for example, you can add them to the list and receive blackberries anytime they are available. They also offer recipes with ready-made groups of ingredients (called meal kits) that you can add to your shopping list. The interface is easy to use and your food delivery is very customizable. The minimum purchase is $32.

Here are a few other doorstep organic companies that deliver outside my area:

  • Greenling: Based out of Austin, TX, these guys seem very passionate about working with local farmers and getting healthy produce to the people of Central Texas! If you live in Austin, this sounds like a great option for local organic produce and locally-sourced artisan products at a minimum of $25 per box. They even have gift cards with seeds in them, so you can plant them after use. Neat!

  • SPUD: With delivery areas in the SF Bay Area, Seattle, L.A., and several cities in Canada, SPUD was certainly the flashiest site I found. While they do offer some local organic produce, you have to do a bit of searching to isolate these options. SPUD is probably a good option for people who just want healthy food and lots of processed food options, like waffles and juice, and aren’t too worried about where their food is grown.

  • Suburban organics: This company delivers to many east coast areas including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and parts of New York and Maryland. They offer mainly produce, all of it organic. In summer months, the food is mostly local (unless you request things like bananas and mangoes, which will never be local). In winter, though, they rely on shipments from Mexico and South America. Again, this is a good option for people who are mostly concerned with having easy access to organic food. Suburban Organics also partners with Door-to-door Organics, which has hubs in and around Colorado, Kansas City, Chicago, and Michigan.

There are many components to eating ethically. Human health, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability are all important aspects of a truly ethical food system. Organic bananas or out-of-season tomatoes are not the best options when it comes to the environment. Processed organic products and organic produce from industrial-scale monoculture farms are other examples of foods that live up to the label of certified organic but probably offer little improvement in sustainability over their conventional counterparts. Despite these shortcomings, restoring the health and well-being of our population is a worthy goal. Organic home delivery offers an opportunity for more people to access fresh and healthy foods, and local or not, that is a huge step forward.

* - Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs link farmers and consumers directly. Typically, you commit to purchasing a certain amount of food (produce, meat, etc.) each week. A box is delivered either to your home or to a central drop-off location. CSAs offer food that is currently being harvested, so it’s the easiest way to get seasonal fresh food. I am a member of the CSA at Eatwell Farm, which delivers one box every two weeks to a location near my work. I get several kinds of fruits and veggies plus a half dozen eggs. You can read more about my motivations for joining a CSA in this post, and about my experience with the Eatwell Farm CSA specifically in this post.

1 comment:

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