Local Businesses Providing Hope-Filled Meals

Local meal kits and prepared meals deliver comfort with a side of joy
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From left: All Real Meal co-owners Sonia Farris and Kasia Lojko. Courtesy photo

It’s not news that COVID-19 has affected the way we live, shop and eat. We are stuck at home more, which means we are cooking more. As great as it is to create meals that would get even Gordon Ramsey’s stamp of approval, sometimes we get burned out — enter meal kits and fully prepared meals that deliver dinner to your doorstep while keeping things local.

Local Baskit was born out of a commitment to be “loyal to local.” The company offers cook-at-home meal kits with varied and inspiring recipes, and ingredients sourced from New Hampshire farms and food artisans. Pickup and recycle locations range from their home base in Concord to Warner and towns in the Seacoast, with online shipping available anywhere and anytime.

“We source as much as we can locally, produce everything in Concord per order in a 48-hour period from when meals are selected, and when we can’t source locally, we don’t go lower than northern Massachusetts,” says owner Beth Richards. “We take pride in being local and creating local partnerships and relationships. We are a CSA pickup location. We bring in local farmers to augment and supplement recipe kits, and we have extra items available like craft beer, wine and dessert for you to grab with your meal kit,” adds Richards.

Their flexible weekly meal kit subscription works as easily as national options and features in-season ingredients from partners around the state. The Fresh Baskit has 10 to 12 weekly choices, is suitable for all dietary needs, and includes quick prep and family-friendly options. The Wellness Baskit is focused on vegetarian and pescatarian options, and also includes paleo, vegan and dairy-free options.

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Local Baskit of Concord uses locally sourced ingredients in their cook-at-home meal kits and prepared soup kits. Courtesy photo

At the beginning of the year, Richards saw a need for an option catering to the nutritional needs of their older demographic, which prompted the idea for their third and newest option, the Longevity Baskit. “We work with NutritionWorks NH to make sure that the salt content for these baskets are low, the proteins are healthy and good, and many options are diabetic-friendly,” says Richards. “Each Baskit also comes with educational information from a registered dietician and one meal is already prepared for you thanks to Revival Kitchen & Bar.”

If you aren’t interested in a subscription, Local Baskit offers Cook Tonight Baskits, which contain prepared meals perfect for the curious who want to try the concept, or for those who need a quick meal for a busy Friday night. In adapting to the realties of life with COVID-19, Richards partnered with Chef Corey Fletcher of Revival Kitchen & Bar in Concord to offer more services.

With more people staying home and not going grocery shopping, they created an additional prepared meal option. Subscribers can pick from soup and salad or a special item from Revival. “Our subscribers are really loving this option for how easy it is and often use it for the night their Baskit arrives,” says Richards. “It is another great way we are loyal to local because chef Corey also works with many local farms. We really wanted to find a way to support restaurants during this time.”

These quick-to-reheat meals are a great addition to a weekly Local Baskit and can be picked up at any of their locations or the Concord Marketplace. Ordering one for yourself is a great way to support New Hampshire farms and restaurants like Revival.

“What we are doing is a perfect example of what food service and the hospitality industry is all about,” says Fletcher. “We are naturally trained to adapt, become creative and create solutions to a problem. Now, we are fulfilling a need to feed people. I’ve been able to adapt my model of using local foods and putting [them] on plates and serving guests, just with takeout and what I am doing with Beth.”

Fletcher adds that while he’s still staying true to using local ingredients, “it’s just a different way to get food to people who want to support local agriculture,” he says. “Being embedded in the community like this and rallying around each other is what keeps us going.”

The greater sense of community and connection that Fletcher and Richards are seeing is inspiring, they say, especially as people are coming together to donate prepared meals to those fighting on the front lines. “It’s been encouraging to see our subscribers donate meals out to directors of nursing homes, the chief of our Concord fire station, and those in need,” says Richards. “Seeing our community step up and support each other has been incredibly encouraging.”

Over the last few months, Local Baskit has seen a 40% increase in new subscribers, and Richards only sees an increase in new options for the future and ways to continue to support local as customers support her. “One of my subscribers asked for milk, so now we offer milk and eggs,” says Richards. “One week we offered pantry basics, and right now we are offering protein packs in addition to our meals. Our delivery routes are full every week and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I think people will see just how good local products are and will want to continue to support companies like ours even after the pandemic ends.”

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Local Baskit’s three offerings are designed to fit the lifestyles and various dietary needs of Granite Staters. Courtesy photo

The concept of joining a meal kit with a restaurant has so far been successful, and their growth and success is rooted in community support. “I am getting handwritten thank you notes and amazing appreciation from our customers,” says Richards. “People are so appreciative and those are the things that I hope don’t go away. I hope that we continue to be healthier for ourselves and create a healthier economy by supporting local institutions and farms.”

When it comes to community and local sourcing, Local Baskit isn’t alone — Rollinsford-based company HomeGrown Eats is a meal delivery service and caterer with a bit of a twist. Based on the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) concept, they’ve created a Community Supported Kitchen, which was formed by the farmers who grow the food and the subscribers who buy it. Most of the vegetables on the menu are grown in HomeGrown Eats’ own permaculture gardens, and the rest of their ingredients are fresh, clean, organic and picked at their peak. Each Friday morning, they post a menu built on what’s ripening in the gardens and what local farmers have available, and they will deliver to the Seacoast area on Wednesday afternoons at no extra charge.

You can choose from an à la carte menu, weekly shares, or you can upgrade your share with extra portions, spices, various add-ons and even family meals. You can order weekly or become a monthly Community Supported Kitchen member.

Past menus have included meals ranging from fish tacos to carrot top pesto vegetables to Swiss chard galettes, and are created for people who don’t have the space, time or know-how to grow their own food. The team believes in eating with the seasons. “Fruits and vegetables grown locally are far more nutritious than those that ripen in warehouses or on trucks while traveling across the country. Locally pastured, humanely raised meats are far removed from the horrors of factory farming. Giving consumers tastier proteins and peace of mind. It’s just a healthier way to eat and live,” says their website. They too have been overwhelmed by the amount of support they have received since the start of COVID-19, a feeling of mutual joy and exhaustion that All Real Meal has experienced as well.

Sonia Farris, co-owner and chef at All Real Meal, has found the same solace in the outpouring of community support. “Since the very beginning of COVID-19, we’ve had people reaching out asking for help with meals or supplies,” says Farris. “So many of our new orders are people sending food to their neighbors, coworkers and friends. We have one woman who sends meals to a different coworker almost every week just to connect and encourage them. We see so much evidence every day that we are safe in each other’s arms here in New Hampshire.”

All Real Meal, says Farris, was founded on love, creativity, fun, and giving back to the community that gives so much to them. They offer fully prepared farm-to-table low-carb, keto, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian breakfasts, lunches and dinners delivered to your door.

“Our idea was to fill your fridge with the kinds of meals that people you love would bring you during monumental times of your life,” says Farris. “For instance, if you just came home from the hospital with a new baby, your mom and close friends would bring over prepared meals for you to reheat that are lovingly crafted with the best stuff inside.”

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All Real Meal in Manchester offers Best of NH award-winning, fully prepared farm-to-table meals delivered right to your door. Just reheat and eat all week long. Courtesy photo

The company, which Farris founded with co-owner Kasia Lojko, opened in a shared space in Manchester 2013. Their goal, says Farris, is to provide customers a healthy, locally sourced meal on those nights when there isn’t time to prepare one. Today, they deliver all over the Granite State, and customers can select their weekly meals from a menu of more than 40 items, ranging from butternut squash lasagna to peanut butter chocolate steel cut oats.

“Our most popular seller has been our ‘You Are Loved’ cooler bag, which comes with eight meals, two sides and two desserts, and then we deliver it either to the customer or they send it as a gift,” says Farris. “Classic comfort foods are also popular right now, such as the pulled pork shepherd’s pie and roast beef with mashed potatoes. We have also been selling out every week on our LaValley Farms free-range organic eggs and locally baked Abigail’s organic bread. It’s hard for us to keep cloth masks in stock as well.”

Since the start of COVID-19, the team has only seen an increase in need — and business. “We have had people reaching out to us to set up meal deliveries for their loved ones from all over the country and even from Canada,” says Farris. “A lot of our regulars who typically order biweekly or monthly started increasing their orders to every week, and sometimes even doubling the size of their orders due to grocery store shortages and just trying to avoid going out.”

At the end of the day, Farris has found that when people are suffering, healing or celebrating, they all want the same thing — good food. “We chose food service, and we continue to choose it because food is love,” says Farris. “It is important and universal. Everyone needs to eat, and right now everyone needs the comfort and nourishment of a good meal. We bring them Kasia’s European chicken soup and my mom’s Puerto Rican beef stew, and we remember their favorites and check if they need an extra roll of toilet paper with their order. If they feel good, then we feel good too.”

Categories: Food & Drink, People