Despite constant news about the impacts of COVID-19, many small businesses are finding creative ways to continue serving their communities. One set of locally-owned Washington D.C. restaurants has found a way to use CSA boxes to support the farm they source from, their neighborhoods, and their staff.
While many restaurants face closures, sister restaurants All-Purpose Pizzeria and The Red Hen have stayed open to offer take-out food options, to-go alcoholic beverages, and do-it-yourself pizza kits. Most recently, they started selling CSA boxes. “We have supported farms since we opened our doors…[w]e wanted to be able to support as many supply chains as we could, and the farmers and small-scale purveyors were at the top of that list,” Chef and Owner, Mike Friedman, tells Food Tank.
“As the community continues to support us and the restaurant community, we need to continue to support our farmers,” says Friedman. They purchase the CSA items from Earth N Eats farm in Pennsylvania and include a variety of products, including eggs, milk, vegetables, and potatoes.
The new model not only supports a local farm, it also offers community members an alternative source of fresh produce. “If people don’t feel comfortable leaving their homes, we are able to deliver food. If customers want a contactless experience, we offer that…[i]n these times, it’s given us a new opportunity to think outside the box and sell goods in an innovative way,” says Friedman.
The CSA boxes are available for pickup at All-Purpose, which has two locations in the Shaw and Navy Yard neighborhoods of Washington, and The Red Hen two days a week. Customers can place their orders via the restaurants’ online ordering system on the day the CSAs come in. The boxes have been selling out quickly and the community has shown significant support, says Friedman.
The restaurants purchase the boxes from farmers at US$25 and sell them to customers for the same price. Twenty percent of the sale contributes to an employee support fund, which will be divided among laid-off staff members. All other take-out purchases also include an added gratuity to support out-of-work employees.
Resilience among restaurants around the city, and the nation, is a source of inspiration in difficult times. “The people that have chosen to stay open have done so many new and different things – slinging burgers, meal kits, build-your-own-dinner bags, turning into bodegas, selling growlers out of their own taps – and the list goes on,” says Friedman, “we will get through this together, and as the saying goes, a rising tide raises all ships.”
Photo courtesy of Alysa Turner