Meal delivery kit services like Blue Apron and HelloFresh are everywhere these days and they cater to all tastes and lifestyles. They offer healthy options, easy-to-follow instructions and recipes, and a minimum of ingredients, fuss and waste.
They’re also customizable and even eclectic, with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menus available. One service offers a different smoothie a day, while another delivers Southern-inspired cuisine with recipes from that region’s top chefs.
In Central New York, there’s a meal delivery service with a local, regional and seasonal twist: Greenfork. The service was launched in late 2015 by Anton Burkett, founder and chief executive of Early Morning Farm, and Tracy McEvilly, marketing director and recipe developer for the CSA (community supported agriculture) farm in Genoa, in Cayuga County.
Like other meal prep/delivery subscription services, Greenfork offers interesting choices, perfectly portioned ingredients to minimize food waste and illustrated, step-by-step instruction/recipe cards designed to make cooking easy. Meal ingredients arrive at your door in a chilled box, with the majority of ingredients sourced close to the Finger Lakes, or within 250 miles of it.
A meal box might contain pasture-raised meat from The Piggery, in Trumansburg; meadow butter from Kriemhild Dairy Farms, Hamilton; goat cheese from Lively Run Goat Dairy, Interlaken; tomato and vegetable purees from Crooked Carrot Farm and Kitchen, Ithaca; and breads from Ithaca Bakery.
Recent menus have included butternut squash and aged goat cheese ravioli; bacon, kale and cheddar tart; winter vegetable ginger miso lo mein; grass-fed beef shepherd’s pie with rosemary mashed potatoes and winter vegetables; braised apple cider chicken; sweet potato and parsnip latkes and chorizo potato tacos.
The two-person plan, with all the ingredients for three meals for two, is $72 per week. A family plan with two meals for four people is $80 per week, or four meals a week for $152.
Meal boxes are packaged at the Finger Lakes Fresh food hub facility, in Groton. The food hub is a division of Challenge Workforce Solutions, a nonprofit, vocational organization that helps people with disabilities and barriers to employment meet the changing needs of the workplace.
Burkett founded Early Morning Farm in 1999 with three acres and a garden Rototiller. Over time, the farm has grown to 100 acres and evolved into one of the largest CSA farms in the region. More than 40 varieties of produce are grown each season and CSA pickups are available at 40 locations in the Finger Lakes, Central New York and the Southern Tier.
Greenfork is an outgrowth of the CSA — in a way, Burkett says. CSA members have told him over the years their biggest challenge is coming up with recipes that use the seasonal bounty in their shares each week. Early Morning Farm introduced how-tos, recipes and videos on its blog several years ago and has an extensive database of recipes for Greenfork to draw from. Greenfork is also working with Ithaca-area chefs to develop recipes for the meal delivery service.
Some CSA members have subscribed to Greenfork, Burkett says. Most customers are working professionals and empty-nesters who have retired recently and/or no longer have children at home and have “changed their diets and changed the way they cook.’’
“With working families, both parents are working and they’re busy and they’re running the kids around and they’ll do anything to get a good healthy meal on the table,’’ Burkett says.
“Our customers really value the local aspect and the regional aspect of the food. And the convenience of it. It’s not just cooking that you do. It’s the planning and shopping and cooking. To pull it together, they’d have to stop at the local grocery store and the local butcher and the farmers markets. It saves a lot of time, which allows people to do what they want to do to begin with.’’
The service also encourages non-cooks to get involved in the kitchen, to learn new skills and experiment with recipes.
“I was skeptical about this idea until I personally ordered from one of these services and got it to my house and I made something I would have never thought to make. And it’s beautiful and the instructions make sense.
“I think it’s true it empowers people to learn how to cook a new thing and it de-compartmentalizes the cooking chore,’’ Burkett says. “Say someone in the household cooks all the time. Now you get this service that shows up and someone who doesn’t feel comfortable in kitchen can make this. They can do this and when they’re done with it they’re going to feel good about what they did.’’