Bridging the Opportunity Divide

This Startup Uses Urban Relics to Serve Up Local Food

August 22, 2014
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This Startup Uses Urban Relics to Serve Up Local Food
Some Chicago newsstands are being repurposed as food kiosks. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Repurposing newsstands into food kiosks is the latest innovation in the sustainability movement.

As more and more people get their news online, it’s not just newspapers and magazines that are going out of business. So is the ubiquitous newsstand.

But instead of bulldozing these small spaces or allowing them to become derelict, Chicago is allowing e.a.t. (which stands for education, agriculture and technology), an Illinois nonprofit dedicated to innovating local food systems, to convert its defunct newsstands into food kiosks.

The very first “e.a.t. spot” is a 45-square-foot healthy food option that opened this week in Chicago’s downtown Loop neighborhood — bringing local produce and grains to residents and workers in the Windy City five days a week. Partnering with the food delivery service Irv & Shelley’s Fresh Picks delivering food and Streetwise, a workforce development agency, four more healthy food stands are set to open in downtown Chicago before year’s end.

Chicago issued its very first Emerging Business License to the initiative, whose menu includes a tofu scramble wrap and an Asian kale salad with shitake mushrooms. The founder of e.a.t., Ken Waagner, says that the menu will probably change quarterly, and that he doesn’t “want too boutiquey food stands. We want it to be for everybody.”

Waagner also stressed the effort’s focus on sustainability. “We want to make it sustainable. Before we say we’re going to open eight, we want to make four work.”

And the good of these “e.a.t. spots” doesn’t end with serving healthy meals. According to DNAinfo, the kiosks are staffed with workers at risk of being homeless.

“It’s a neat social enterprise-meets-social experiment,” says Waagner. “That’s what it ultimately is, so we’ll see.”

In our opinion, bringing healthy food and jobs to those in need sounds like recipe for success.

 

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