Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=154309
Story Retrieval Date: 6/20/2013 6:06:00 AM CST
Four years ago, Irvin Cernauskas and Shelly Herman – MBAs from MIT who opted out of corporate careers – started Fresh Picks to distribute organic and local food to households in Chicago.
“I was a board member for some nonprofits in Chicago through which I met farmers and saw the real lack of infrastructure to get products to local markets,” Cernauskas said. “Nonprofits can do a great job as catalysts, but to be sustainable we need a business to get food into people’s kitchens.”
Fresh Picks offers year-round drop-off service of fresh produce, dairy/eggs, meat/fish and baked goods.
And business has been booming.
Fresh Picks grew by 40 percent in 2009, has built a roster of a few thousand clients and employs artists and musicians to help with running the warehouse, which translates into playing personal playlists and hanging employee art on the cinderblock walls.
Fresh Picks customers range in age, income, neighborhood, gender, and family structure.
“It has changed my life,” said Kitty Hopper, a self-employed Chicago resident who subscribes to weekly deliveries of fruits and vegetables for herself. “I feel better; it has opened me up to try new things, and it is so convenient.”
For Lisa Conley, mother of three, the service represents a way to support Illinois farmers and to eat healthier.
“It has also exposed me to a host of different vegetables,” Conley said. “They focus on ‘try the celery root’ or ‘try the kale’ to promote vegetables in season. And because I have the veggies, I tend to cook more often.”
Hopper, Conley and a growing number of Americans are increasingly making values-based decisions as opposed to focusing solely on getting the best bang for their buck when purchasing food, leading to significant growth in organic products across the country.
A market research firm that tracks consumer behavior refers to these kinds of individuals as lifestyle consumers and estimates that nearly 41 million adults in the U.S. fall under this classification.
“Because we’ve had a global food system, local infrastructure has fallen down,” Cernauskas said. “Part of the reason we started Fresh Picks was to encourage local production by letting farmers know there was a way to sell it. They’re not going to grow it unless they know they can sell it.”