- Melinda Murphy
New way to deliver food
The coronavirus lockdown has changed the way we eat. Many people are reluctant to risk COVID-19 exposure by visiting grocery stores. Yet Instacart, Whole Foods, and Amazon Prime deliveries are slammed. Struggling dairy farmers are literally throwing millions of gallons of milk away, restaurant distributors are stuck with tons of food, and many people in the food industry are without a paycheck. Luckily, savvy entrepreneurs are stepping in to fill gaps in an overwhelmed supply chain. Here are two innovators – Moo Cow Market and L.A. Bodega on Wheels – helping consumers in SF and LA gain access to fresh, local food, while also employing workers and supporting struggling small businesses during this period of historic unemployment.
1. Moo Cow Market
On April 27, serial entrepreneur Alexandra Mysoor – founder of Par Avion tea and Alexandra Mysoor Home – launched Moo Cow Market in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company offers refrigerated essentials sourced directly from local, family-owned farms, small brands, and manufacturers and delivers them safely, with zero contact, to your home. While Instacart has shoppers go into a store to get items, thereby marking up items and exposing themselves to sickness, Moo Cow Market has created a mobile bodega. Not only does this business model employ people, but also it gets money to farmers and struggling brands faster.
“I began hearing from farmers and other local food manufacturers that they were having to dispose of perfectly good food due to a broken and overwhelmed supply chain,” says Alexandra Mysoor. “I told my 13-year-old son Krish what I was hearing and he said, ‘Hey, what if we could get the eggs, milk, and other food from farmers and deliver it directly to people? Like, actually do the delivering?’”
Krish Mysoor not only helped come up with the idea for Moo Cow Market but also put the needed technology together. He was inspired by attending a debate camp on the UCLA campus last summer. A company there hired students to deliver snacks directly to the classroom. “I was impressed with the assortment,” says Krish Mysoor. “They had all the things I would want as a student. Plus, they worked fast because the students know their way around campus better than anyone and the app was easy to use.”
In order to turn the Moo Cow Market concept into reality, Alexandra, her husband Prashanth Mysoor, and Krish had to move incredibly fast. For example, they had just lined up the SF favorite Three Twins Ice Cream brand to be on the truck, only to find out a few hours later that the company had ceased operations. (Moo Cow Market did ultimately secure the last Three Twins run for its consumers, however.)
“It was all hands on deck,” says Alexandra Mysoor. “Krish became our de-facto CTO, helping us pick the right technology platform and building some of the features we would need to enable deliveries, take orders, and organize all of our new, low-tech vendors. Since he had taken programming classes and an engineering and app design course, he jumped in to explain to farmers and local brands how Moo Cow Market could help them repackage for retail and distribute directly to consumers through our refrigerated truck network. What this crisis has illuminated is how much we rely on our agricultural community.”
Currently, Moo Cow Market carries such beloved brands as Blue Bottle coffee, Strauss Family and Clover dairy products, Glaum Ranch eggs, Califia farms almond milk, and other products such as locally produced cookies. They are adding local fresh meats and launching pre-curated boxes — including Homeschool Lunch boxes for littles to help overwhelmed parents, and Netflix and Chill boxes for families to have fun movie nights. In addition, the site offers a "Donate Groceries to a family" feature during check-out, which allows you to support people in need during this challenging time.
“We are delivering bags and bags of refrigerated staples to families and elderly who are falling through the cracks,” says Alexandra Mysoor. “This is a difficult time with economic setback for many, but we truly are stronger together.”
2. L.A. Bodega on Wheels
Natasha Case, CEO and founder of Coolhaus Ice Cream, recently announced her new project, L.A. Bodega on Wheels – a temporary rolling bodega – as a way to give LA consumers access to fresh, sustainably-produced foods, inspire small businesses to get scrappy and work together with others in the food industry, and keep as many of these business afloat as possible. It also puts some unemployed staffers back to work with tips in their pockets. 10% of proceeds from all sales are evenly divided and donated to charities including Opportunity Fund's Small Business Relief Fund.
“The L.A. Bodega on Wheels is an amazing partnership between business owners across hospitality segments, including restaurants, bars, ice cream shops, and spirit brands,” says Case. “We are rising to the challenge in these immensely difficult times to bring delicious, nourishing products to the community while raising money to give back to those in need.”
The L.A. Bodega on Wheels uses Coolhaus Ice Cream trucks to become “retailers on wheels.” And it’s not the first time the company trucks have been part of emergency relief: Coolhaus delivered cookies and hot chocolate to victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The delivery radius includes Culver City, Venice, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Westwood, Ocean Park, Mar Vista, and Marina del Rey. Provisions include DIY pasta kits, vegetable dishes, coffee, bread, and wine from The Rose Venice; cookies, ice cream scoops, and ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus; gin from Future Gin; canned, craft cocktails from VERVET; and miscellaneous items such as face masks and hand sanitizer.