Cookbook author and columnist Mark Bittman recently left his post at The New York Times, and is already moving on to new projects. The advocate for more vegan eating is teaming up with a meal kit delivery service, Purple Carrot, to encourage people to cook meat-free at home. Bittman is helping the company develop new recipes, as well as acting as a spokesperson.
Offering up dishes like saag paneer with basmati rice, a black bean veggie burger and ratatouille with polenta, Purple Carrot promotes both the health and environmental benefits of a vegan diet.
Bittman told Civil Eats that Purple Carrot also wants to support a better food system. “It’s trying to be a company that sets examples, and encourages not only the consumption of plant-based foods, but encourages fair treatment of farmers, the right kind of relationship between food and the environment, and shows respect for its customers, its workers, and on and on,” he said.
Meal kit services, which deliver pre-prepared ingredients that can be combined and cooked at home easily, have two major sticking points in my mind: packaging and cost. Bittman said that packaging is an issue that the company is continuing to try to address, as all the pre-measured ingredients come in individual containers. The company’s website does have instructions for recycling the containers, but a shipped meal is likely to generate a lot more packaging waste than shopping at the farmers market (although likely a comparable amount as packaged foods from the grocery store).
Bittman also told Civil Eats that the service can cut down on food waste on the consumer end, because every kit comes with exactly the right amount of ingredients for each meal.
The cost of the service, however, is likely to make Purple Carrot inaccessible to many American families. At a $68.00 for three meals for two people or $74.00 for two meals for four people, the service is clearly aimed at time-pressed yet well-off people who aren’t worried about the cost of groceries.
Nonetheless, meal kit services and grocery delivery services are a growing trends and it seems the demand is continuing to grow. So while the driving premise of such services is convenience above all else—a premise that’s often bad news news from a sustainability standpoint—it’s encouraging to see start-ups in this space that are consciously making an effort to promote more eco-friendly habits.