Home Meal Delivery Services for Chicagoans Sheltering in Place

In the scramble to determine what constitutes an “essential” service in the midst of an unprecedented modern-day pandemic, the one area where everyone on the planet seems to agree is food. Despite universal acknowledgement that the public’s access to food must continue, keeping ourselves fed is presenting new challenges at a time when many restaurants, cafes and bars across the country are closing their doors. Thankfully, many have continued to operate—but they need your help. In some cases, restaurants that never delivered have had to become curbside pick-up and delivery-only overnight.

For those worried about the risk of accepting deliveries, Angela Rasmussen, Ph.D. — a virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health — recently told Forbes that “there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted by eating food. I imagine that if this is possible, the risk is extremely low.” We talked to an infectious disease specialist and put together everything you need to know to safely order take-out.

As a result of piecemeal shelter-in-place orders issued by various state governors, home delivery of groceries has also surged. On Monday, March 30, workers of the popular San Francisco–headquartered grocery delivery service Instacart staged a strike to demand hazard pay and more protective gear and supplies. The service recently saw a surge of 50,000 new shoppers trying to utilize the platform in one week alone, according to Christian Science Monitor.

Meanwhile, third-party delivery services like DoorDash and Grubhub are sending droves of workers to Chicago eateries for pick-up orders while the Chicago Tribune reports there are currently more than 1,400 restaurants offering delivery in the city. The results are the same regardless of the geography, with a drastically reduced pool of options leading to a crush of demand on a heroic but understaffed workforce. Case in point: the online restaurant reservation site OpenTable reported a 400 percent surge in delivery and take-out orders in the U.S. last week.

Supporting local restaurants by ordering takeout is a great way to help keep the economy going. Sometimes it’s nice to cook your own meal though, and another option that continues to remain viable for now is meal-kit delivery service for customers to prepare at home. Many of the biggest names in this field have only come to prominence in recent years. Ranging in concept from programs that offer fresh ingredients to ones that come with step-by-step instructions for how to prepare a specific meal, many of these services continue to operate and are ready to help you stay fed while we collectively strive to flatten the curve of coronavirus infections by staying home.

Keep reading for a guide to what’s currently available as well as what steps each company is taking to ensure your safety during this health crisis.

Farmer’s Fridge

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Services Provided: Many Chicagoans are likely familiar with the “fridges” stocked by Farmer’s Fridge throughout town. Serving as healthy vending machines, each offers a selection of freshly prepared salads, bowls, snacks and more. The company is now also offering delivery, which makes it a viable option during the ongoing crisis.

Coverage Area: Greater Chicago Area.

Cost: Items range from $2 to $16; $25 minimum and scheduled delivery required.

Sample Salad: Hand-chopped napa cabbage with mixed greens, grapes, cucumber, chickpeas, avocado, dried cherries, feta and pistachios with a housemade balsamic vinaigrette.

COVID-19 Update: Farmer’s Fridge is currently providing fresh, healthy meals in places like hospitals and airports with a 25 percent discount on all products purchased at a “fridge” location.

Home Chef

Service: Home Chef provides fresh weekly meal kits customized to your liking. The service includes weekly recipe rotations for all skill levels and a “customize it” feature built into the ordering process ensures that meals are tailored to your desire.

Area Coverage: 98%percent of the United States.

Cost: Meals start at $6.99 per serving.

Sample Dinner: Lamb with jalapeño jelly, parmesan-chive mashed potatoes and broccolini.

COVID-19 Update: “Food safety is core to everything we do, so we are confident in our ability to keep our customers safe. We have rigorous supplier approval and quality assurance programs to ensure ingredient quality and safety. Additionally, we work with some of the most reputable food suppliers in the country and often source locally.” More information on Home Chef’s response to COVID-19 can be found here.

Meez Meals

Service: Based in Evanston, Meez Meals offers tasty new recipes each week paired with ingredients that are prepped and ready to cook. The service was also recently ranked number one overall in a Chicago Tribune editors’ survey of home-delivered meal kits, with the paper applauding Meez Meals’ inventive menu and use of local ingredients.

Area Coverage: All of Illinois.

Cost: Entrees start at $9 per serving.

Sample Dinner: Blackened Baja salmon and avocado tacos with tangy pineapple.

COVID-19 Update: N/A.

Blue Apron

Meal Delivery Services like Blue Apron Offering Kits
Photo courtesy of Blue Apron

Service: One of the biggest names in the game, Blue Apron has been delivering meal prep kits since 2012. While recent news indicated the company might be on the verge of calling it quits, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic now has Blue Apron actually looking to hire new workers in several cities.

Area Coverage: Contiguous United States.

Cost: Meals start at $7.49 per serving.

Sample Dinner: Mexican-spiced salmon with cilantro sauce, quinoa, shishito peppers and orange.

COVID-19 Precautions: In a statement made to Rolling Stone, the company says they “…continue to closely monitor guidance provided by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other applicable government agencies.”

For more ways to spice up your dinners while sheltering-in-place, check out these articles from Better:

Panic Baking? Delicious Recipes to Keep Your Hands (And Mind) Busy 

How to Safely Order Takeout Food During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Cooking for — and with — Your Family in the Time of Coronavirus: Recipes and Tips

Zack RuskinZack Ruskin writes on music, cannabis, and culture. His bylines include Vanity FairBillboardEntertainment WeeklyVarietyMerry Jane, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Danielle, and their cat, McCovey.

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