As the lockdown began in mid-March, the appeal of signing up with a local farm for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription suddenly soared. Here at Edible East Bay, we quickly updated our long-running CSA guide, adding in new offerings as soon as we heard about them. But right away, many of the farms on our list got swamped by demand, and the idea of pre-packed food boxes for no-contact pickup/delivery was being adopted by new business categories. Restaurants, caterers, grocery stores, farmers' markets, nonprofits, neighborhood groups, and even individual food producers jumped on the “boxwagon,” and it became clear that keeping up with such developments for our guide would be impossible. Yet, we wanted to continue getting good information to readers, so we decided to start highlighting boxes that our staff and readers have found especially appealing. Tell us about your favorite box if you want to see it featured here in coming weeks. And if you want to follow the bear, look up #jimmybearberkeley.
Thanks to Annelies Zijderveld for contributing to these write ups.
Alexis and Eric Koefoed have been farming on a family homestead in Vacaville for over 20 years. Their “temporary CSA" is a way to help other small local farmers and craft producers get full value for their products and keep sales moving during the shutdown. Your “box” is essentially whatever you choose to load it with from the weekly-changing online pantry. You might stock up on fresh pasta, bread dough, preserves, handmade body care products, Wild Dog Farm microgreens, Liberty Duck, Be Love Farm beets or duck eggs, Bohemian Creamery cheese, June Taylor’s candied peels, Lockewood Acres veggies, lamb, and popcorn, plus Soul Food Farm’s own eggs, olive oil, and herbs. The ordering window opens Saturdays at 10am and closes on Wednesday at 5pm. You’ll need to pick up your box from one of three locations: Soul Food Farm in Vacaville (Saturday pickup), Albany/Berkeley (Sunday), San Francisco’s Sunset District (Sunday).
Grace Street Catering has served the Bay Area from the corner of MLK and 47th Street in Oakland for 30 years. Concerned for their employees, farmers, and suppliers when the SIP suddenly shut down catering, they quickly decided to open an online “corner store” featuring the Graceful Box, which they filled with local produce and eggs. Realizing they had more products around the catering kitchen that people needed, they also stepped up to help fill home pantries with high-quality baking supplies, dairy products, meats, and fish, and household essentials like cleaners and toilet paper. They have a wide ordering window and deliver all over the Bay Area. Order by Monday 9pm for Thursday Pickup or Delivery. There's an option to purchase a box to help someone in the food industry facing a layoff.
Yuen Hop Co. Food Box
Located in the heart of Oakland Chinatown at 824 Webster Street, 90-year-old Yuen Hop Co. has been known for decades as THE place to get handmade noodles. When the SIP began, the community rallied around a new relief initiative called Good Good Eatz, whose organizers encouraged Yuen Hop owner Anthony Quan to get on Instagram and to start packing his family’s legacy noodles into a box along with tofu, stir-fry vegetables, and other Asian staples for no-contact pickup/delivery. Funds from community donors help get the boxes to Chinatown shut-ins, and you can consider adding a donation along with your order. The box is $49, and you’ll need to be on Venmo to make payment @Anthony-Quan-a. If you want delivery, you’ll pay Dragonfly Delivery’s Dina Suarez @layDSuarez. Order by Tuesday at 9pm for Wednesday afternoon delivery or curbside pickup between 12:30 and 2:30pm.
Formerly known as The Town Kitchen, this community-driven food company was founded with a mission to empower underserved Bay Area youth. They had a roster of corporate clients before the SIP, but with offices closed, they are finding a way forward by offering a full range of prepared foods, pantry provisions, and essential supplies for home delivery. While you’re in the online shop, you can donate to help get goods to shut-in community members, and also know that with every $100 spent at Town Kitchen Provisions, you will have funded three hours of employment and apprenticeship for underserved Bay Area youth.
Raymond Rumiano of Rumiano Cheese Company—California’s oldest family-owned cheesemaker—says that with cheesemongers no longer able to custom cut cheeses to order at counters and farmers' markets, people in his business are struggling to sell. As a way to help these and other small-scale food artisans reach customers directly, he came up with a way to pack a wine and cheese happy hour into a box. Called Board at Home, it’s available in three sizes ranging from a Little Guy box with two wedges of cheese, crackers, and a bottle of wine ($65) to the Mother Board, which has three wedges of cheese, a bar of dark chocolate, charcuterie, two boxes of crackers, and a bottle of wine ($130). Five percent of proceeds go to the Lee Initiative to provide emergency assistance to independent restaurants and their workers. There’s same-day no-contact delivery available in some Bay Area locations.
Supporting local and diverse food operators just got easier with La Cocina’s East Bay addition to their Community Food Box. The San Francisco–based incubator, known for helping launch aspiring food entrepreneurs (mostly low-income, women, people of color, and immigrants), now offers a curated box of meals prepared by their entrepreneurs. Filled with eight dishes serving 2-4 people each, the box is available in omnivore or vegetarian options, both priced at $110. A recent box included Reem’s California’s cheese & za’atar manoushe, la Guerrera’s Kitchen’s chicken mole tamales, Mama Lamees’s mujjaddarah, chicken and shorabet khodra, Minnie Bell’s mac n’ cheese with veggie greens, and Nyum Bai’s kuy teav cha (garlicky stir fry sauce). The selections inside change weekly in order to feature the full variety of foods from La Cocina businesses. You need to pre-order for the Tuesday contact-free pick-up at Nyum Bai, 3340 East 12th Street, #11, Oakland.
Port Costa Community Food Box
Here's what one of the East Bay's more isolated communities has done to ensure that its citizens have access to fresh local produce.
“Our version of the food box came about from a desire to have our own access to inexpensive organic produce without having to go to the grocery store. CSAs and Instacart don't deliver to Port Costa, so we had to come up with another way. A friend created a very simple Google form that our neighbors fill out weekly. Once the forms are submitted, I total everything up and cobble together orders through a number of farms and distributors. The fruit and pantry items, which I order from distributors, are delivered to Bull Valley Roadhouse. Everything else I can possibly get farm-direct, I pick up at Berkeley's Tuesday market. I usually order extra of everything so that people can purchase things on the fly from our stand, which we operate for a few hours twice a week. Everything that doesn't end up in someone's box or purchased at the stand gets made into sorbet, pickles, or veggie stock and sold through the market. Very little ends up in the compost bin. The margins are tight on purpose, and our relatively tiny price markup helps offset the cost of transit, spoilage, and utilities. Everyone who staffs the market is a volunteer, including myself. It's a lot of work but it is a blast, and almost everyone has asked me if the program will continue after the shelter-in-place is lifted.” —Kramer
Farmers’ Market Pre-Packed Boxes
Farmers’ markets remain open as essential services, but as at grocery stores, risk continues as shoppers mingle, handle food, and exchange money for goods. The solution occurred to everyone simultaneously: boxes of market items pre-packed and delivered curbside at the markets. However, market managers had to invent the systems from scratch, and each market site presents unique obstacles. Thus far (to our knowledge) three East Bay market associations have programs in place, but we expect to see that expanding each week as solutions arise:
The Bounty Box at the Saturday Oakland Grand Lake is a selection curated by market managers. You can specify the size of box you want, but not the items.
The Good to Go Box at the Saturday Orinda market is also market-curated. Sign up early in the week when ordering begins, since the boxes sell out.
The Urban Village Farmers’ Market Association, which runs a market in Castro Valley and three in Oakland (Temescal, Old Oakland, Montclair) has signed on with an app system called Source What’s Good to give shoppers the ability to self-curate boxes from their favorite market vendors (although not all vendors have it functioning yet). If you shop at the Temescal market, you can fetch your pre-ordered Village Box from the parking lot drive-thru on Sundays, but the association expects to have similar pickup systems in place at their other market locations soon. “We see this supplemental online farmers market model as an important, long-term protection for our vendors’ livelihoods and for our urban communities’ access to safe fresh food as the struggles around pandemics, intensifying fire seasons, and inclement weather rise.” —uvfm.org
Please support your local farmers’ market!