Whether you live in the Bay Area or rural Mendocino County, we all appreciate new technologies and services to help us get through the day. It’s no wonder that meal kit delivery services are the fastest growing food industry. Dozens of meal kit services exist, but they all have the same basic offering: order a pre-packaged meal as individual ingredients and cook an amazing meal at home.
It sounds so alluring. Meal planning is fun on an enticing website. Cooking is simple with easy-to-follow recipes and no grocery shopping. You can learn to cook new recipes with new ingredients. You get to eat a gourmet meal at home. Feel good that you are not wasting food, as you get the exact amount of each ingredient needed. Some meal kit services will curate the high-quality, sustainable ingredients for you. Is it all worth it?
The biggest criticism of meal kits is that the packaging is wasteful. While cardboard boxes are recyclable, the small plastic bags for pre-portioned ingredients are not conveniently so, as curbside recycling often doesn’t accept them. You can only collect and keep so many ice packs that come with each delivery. The menus are not regional, so summer produce from Texas may have to be shipped to New Jersey if the East Coast is still in cool spring. That certainly isn’t eating locally and with the seasons.
How do farmers fare? Some CSA farmers are finding that meal kit services are partly to blame for decreased sales. With CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), consumers become members of a farm and purchase a share of the vegetable harvest, receiving a weekly share of produce throughout the growing season – a different type of subscription. With the sheer volume of produce, grains, and proteins necessary, small-scale farmers will never be able enter the meal kit market.
In our busy, over-scheduled lives, if you’re going to cook a meal at home, why not do it with true intention. Yes, you’re trying to make good choices for your family, save time, and looking for the best quality, sustainable food. But isn’t there value in connecting with your local community by shopping at the local farmers market or food co-op to support the small farmer and sustain the culture of your foodshed? Slow-food proponents encourage learning to cook and trying new foods, but as a means of counteracting both the rise of the fast life and the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. Learning to cook with friends and family is possible with local ingredients and without excessive packaging.
If you’re really short on time and willing to pay for convenience, why not order from your favorite local restaurant that sources wholesome, quality ingredients, too. We’re fortunate to have several options, like The Golden Pig, for eating out that support good producers and food businesses in our foodshed. Unlike a meal kit, it will also save you the hassle of washing dishes at home.
Share your thoughts with us on why you like or dislike meal delivery kits.
 “Who Grows Food For Blue Apron? Their Resident Agroecologist, Alison Grantham, Explains” Modern Farmer. Accessed October 1, 2018.
 “Small Farmers Say Meal Kits Cut Into Their CSA Business” Marketplace. Accessed October 1, 2018.
 “Meal Kits Ask You to Pick Your Battle: Decrease Food Waste or Actual Waste?” Observer. Accessed October 1, 2018.