While I was mingling with guests at a concert recently, I met a young man who told me he worked for a company that sold fresh salads out of vending machines throughout Chicago, that are made from locally sourced ingredients. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I asked him to tell me more about this company and how he was involved. He told me the company is called Farmer’s Fridge and his role is to slice, dice, and prepare the fresh salads that stock the machines. Intrigued, I wanted to learn more.
Lucky for me, I was able to score an interview with East Coast native, Luke Saunders; the CEO and founder of Farmer’s Fridge. Luke told me he got the idea for Farmer’s Fridge while traveling for work in the manufacturing business and not being able to find healthy food options in unknown cities and at odd hours of the day. Having been raised by a mom who cooked lots of fresh vegetables and seafood, he understood the many benefits of a healthy diet. Luke wanted to figure out a way to make healthy, delicious meals easily accessible for people on the go – people like him.
When asked how the company managed to serve fresh salads from vending machines on a daily basis, Luke laughed and said, “lots of work.” People produce around the clock preparing the freshly made foods that Farmer’s Fridge sells at their veggie kiosks (vending machines). Farmer’s Fridge’s ingredients are sourced from local farms and vendors and are mostly organic. Everything is seasonal and is hand-chopped daily. Some items, like avocados, need to be sliced and soaked in lemon juice, to preserve color and freshness, just minutes before the salads are assembled and taken to the machines. Salads are restocked daily and leftovers are taken to local food banks or back to the employees for them to enjoy (some of whom have lost weight from having access to so much healthy food!).
I asked Luke if he faced a lot of resistance when he told his friends and family about his idea. He said his friends initially told him “you’ve had a lot of stupid ideas, but this is by far the dumbest.” It took awhile to come together, but Farmer’s Fridge currently has over 10 locations in Chicago. When asked about plans for expansion, Luke didn’t give any details, but suggested that we can expect to see more Farmer’s Fridge veggie kiosks popping up throughout Chicagoland in the future.