University of Minnesota to introduce 14-day meal kit plan amidst quarantine period
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is partnering with rural grocery stores and nutritionists to implement a 14-day meal kit to stimulate the local economy and ensure those in isolation have access to a stable food supply.
The 14-day meal kit is the brainchild of Kathy Draeger, statewide director of the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP).
The idea was to encourage activity for local grocery companies while utilising locally sourced food while encouraging social distancing as well when sending the food to those who are unable to go out for groceries.
Draeger and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota worked with community partners to establish a set of guidelines that local grocers can use to put together an affordable and sustainable meal kit for one person that will last for two weeks.
In addition, the RSDP also developed a tip sheet that includes basic instructions for how local small-scale grocery stores can include a curbside pickup and delivery model to ensure all parties involved practice social distancing.
“We had to figure out steps that needed to be taken to protect vulnerable people as well as isolate folks who may be exposed or have COVID-19,” said Draeger in a report by SC Times.
“So I worked with a group of nutritionists, some rural grocery store owners and others to create a two-week meal kit that community groups could work with their small-town grocer, have these kits assembled and stored to be deployed to people in the community.”
Draeger came up with the idea while the COVID-19 outbreak was just beginning to affect rural citizens in Minnesota. She then worked together with nutritionists in the university to come up with three key priority points to consider while constructing the meal kit plan.
The criteria the team paid the most attention to, according to Draeger, was that the products included in the kit had to be food that was readily available in small-town stores, ease of preparation and affordability were the other two key considerations.
This was to ensure that these meal kits would be of use for people from underprivileged situations and who were stuck in isolation at home and had difficulties in going out to buy groceries or to get food on a daily basis.
After running several tests on food combinations, the final plan encompassed various food products that met their criteria and would last the full 14 days and had enough calories and nutrition value.
The entire kit would cost US$150 in total (an average of US$10.71 a day or US$3.57 per meal).
The meal kit will be available for anyone who may need it, all they need to do is call the local grocery store and request one. The store workers will then proceed to pack up the meal kit according to a list of products provided to each local grocery store.
These products fit nicely into three boxes that each weigh 20 pounds. In order to maintain social distancing, grocery stores will place these kits for curbside pickup. The buyer merely has t pay for them and pick them up.
This allows buyers to avoid the crowds when shopping for groceries as the only people in the store will be the workers themselves. In addition, thanks to the curbside pickup movement, the buyer doesn’t even need to leave their car for the transaction.
“Churches in these rural areas have been big spots for these meal kits,” added Draeger.
“They’ve bought a few of them to prepare if someone goes into quarantine and needs a meal kit.”
This initiative has great prospects for further expansion. Draeger has been contacting wholesale groceries that serve many rural stores about possible collaborations with the meal kits.
There is also a possibility that these meal kits can be adapted for special diets like vegetarian or gluten-free. However, as Draeger explained, a little bit more time may be needed to scrutinise food labels before considering adding certain items in the meal kit.
As of now, this meal kit concept has expanded to stores in North and South Dakota. Kansas State University is also onboard with the idea and has introduced it to its local grocery stores.
“We hope this meal kit isn’t necessary in the future, but right now it helps consumers and grocery stores be prepared during this time of uncertainty,” said Draeger.
The list provided to local grocery stores can also be used by regular consumers as it is enough food supplies to stock up for 14 days.