Pre-packed food boxes for contactless pickup/delivery are trending all over—even with the USDA! Nearly every restaurant with takeout is looking into adding a pantry that includes a box of produce assembled to help support their farmer-vendors as well as to keep their own workers busy. We’re also seeing plenty of ways to add a donation to our food box orders.
As you peruse our Favorite Food Boxes of the East Bay Part II (below), make sure to check back to Favorite Food Boxes of the East Bay Part I as well.
Even the United States government has seen the value in boxing food and moving it directly from farmers to consumers: Locally, two growers (Urban Tilth and Capay Organic) and a distributor (Fresh Approach) are participating in the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
Photo courtesy of the USDA
For over 12 years. people living in Oakland’s Glenview neighborhood have strolled over to Bellanico Restaurant and Wine Bar for favorites like tagliolini pepati, spaghetti alla Bolognese, Swiss chard malfatti, and casunzei (beet and ricotta ravioli). Now they're picking up those items as meal kits or frozen to thaw and cook at home. Co-owner Elizabeth Frumusa says customers enjoy the surprise of seeing what’s in each week’s produce box. For the highly affordable $35 they recently got orange cauliflower, broccolini, lacinato kale, Meyer lemons, maitake mushrooms, cipollini, fingerling potatoes, sugarplum tomatoes, bananas, pears, and Pink Lady apples plus a pantry item (recently house-made olive focaccia or house-made tagliolini). Boxes must be ordered and paid for online at by 5pm on Monday for pick up on Wednesday between 3 and 7pm.
Back in the 1980s, eating burgers at the old Gorilla Café in Oakland’s Jack London Square produce district was all the more fun for the hubbub of surrounding produce wholesalers loading flats of fresh produce for delivery to local restaurants and markets. One of those companies, C&L Produce (est. 1949), continues as its third generation of family members moves the produce through the same old warehouse. When restaurants stopped ordering in March, C&L made a quick pivot to retail, and they now offer numerous semi-customizable produce box options. You can choose an all organic box with produce from favorite farms like Happy Boy, Blossom Bluff, Durst Organic, and Coke Farm, and there are options for fresh pesto, salsa, hummus, eggs, dairy, and rice. Call 510.893.9010 before 10pm for next-day pickup at 440 Franklin Street, Oakland. (Delivery option coming soon.)
No surprise that the Chez Panisse Farm Box is much in demand, since the restaurant’s kitchen has an unmatched reputation for sourcing the finest and freshest local goods. You'll need some luck getting into the ordering site before the boxes are all snapped up, though. The online shop opens on Fridays at noon and closes up quickly as things sell out. You'll bring your own bags and boxes to fetch your goods from the restaurant’s driveway the following Sunday. The $40 box is filled with organic fruits and vegetables from the restaurant's partner farms like Green String, Knoll, Swanton Berry, and Riverdog. You’ll also get a pantry item like the Chez Panisse house vinaigrette. Also find à la carte items like local black cod, Acme bread, pasta, canned Di Napoli tomatoes, farro, extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, anchovies, and chocolate. Plus, you can make a donation to the California Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), which will go to CAFF to support grants and loans to small family farms during this crisis.
Homage has been a favorite pizza spot in Martinez for years, and they continue to deliver hot pizzas and pizza kits. Now during the shutdowns, you can also choose to get a C&L Produce food box (see above) along with your pizza kit. Plus they have added a drop location at the Emeryville Public Market.
Mica Talmor’s previous restaurant Ba-Bite (featured in our Spring 2016 issue) was a big hit with East Bay lovers of Middle Eastern flavors. Her new venture, Pomella, opened just as the shelter-in-place order landed, but she’s determined to carry on. Among her offerings of modern Israeli prepared dishes are lots of pantry items including a CSA-style box filled with organic fruits and vegetables (plus eggs if you want to add them). A recent box included broccoli, asparagus, radishes, kale, butter lettuce, a bunch of carrots, Pink Lady apples, D'anjou pears, Pixies, blood oranges, avocado, and blueberries, plus some fresh-squeezed juice. Order the day before for your preferred Thursday, Friday, or Saturday 3-6pm curbside pickup. There’s also delivery available in the East Bay on Fridays.
Continuing to support the farms he cares about has been top of mind for Devin Gonzalez, chef/owner of Taco el Precioso, a popup and catering company run from the commissary kitchen at the Alice Collective, a group of businesses that celebrates Oakland’s diversity. Each week when Gonzalez goes to the Old Oakland and San Rafael farmers’ markets, he patronizes family farms run by women and people of color like Rojas, Barbagelata, Toscano, Ortiz and others. The fresh produces goes into his taco kits—lamb barbacoa, pork carnitas, and cauliflower al pastor—fresh salsas, and salads, and he also packs CSA boxes to sell at cost, so all the profit goes back to the farmers. “People get $30 worth of food from the farmers and the farmers get $30,” he says. He’s also been donating meals for day laborers and first responders at Oakland hospitals with help from East Bay FeedER and World Central Kitchen, and he has a menu option to let customers pay for a donated meal. You place your order any time Sunday evening through Wednesday evening, then Gonzalez shops at the farmers' markets on Friday and Saturday to have your food ready for pickup on Sundays.