SLC Chow: Local, Plant-Based Meal Kits
Food: Interviews & Features
Do you know why you’re making the decision to eat the foods you do? Is it price? Is it the environment? Cultural or health reasons? Whatever your reasoning, these are questions Rachel Smith urges others to think about when buying their food. This is one of the reasons she decided to launch her own business aimed at healthy and sustainable food practices.
After moving to Salt Lake City from Helsinki, Finland, the COVID-19 pandemic made it hard for Smith to find a job but did give her the time to focus on something she’s passionate about: vegan food.
Smith never saw herself as a business owner. After some inspiration from her friends, she took the leap to create her meal-kit delivery service, SLC Chow. Unlike other big-name meal kits such as Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, by subscribing to SLC Chow, you need to live in Salt Lake City and are signing up for plant-based, locally sourced meals. The service doesn’t use wasteful packaging, instead reusing meal kit tote bags and ice packs.
The SLC Chow team is small, consisting of Smith and two others. She doesn’t have accounts with suppliers, instead working directly with the connections she’s made at farmers markets, such as Zoe’s Garden, her main source for ingredients. She also works with Jamaica Trinnaman from Hello! Bulk to get high-quality products. “I’m really grateful to have that as a resource, as well, because it does open up a lot of options to both support a local business and keep a lot of variety going,” Smith says.
“I was eating this really mediocre steak, and it just didn’t feel worth it to me, all the labor and water to put this not-that-good piece of meat on my plate.”
Smith’s meal options for her customers are planned out four weeks in advance and are aimed at creating variety using what’s seasonally available, such as tomatillos in the summer and cabbage in the fall. She offers gluten-free options and substitutes, striving to prepare meals that are naturally gluten-free. In the summer, many of her meals involve less indoor cooking. SLC Chow subscribers only need a few simple tools to prepare the meals—oil, salt and pepper, a skillet, a pot and a baking sheet. If anything special is required, Smith sends out an alert beforehand.
Embedding Chow deeper into the SLC community, Smith works with other local businesses such as Sweet Hazel & Co to bring sweet treats like peanut butter chocolate cups to the meal kits. She also sends out business cards for other unique businesses like Earthie Crunchie, a community composting service [featured on p. 12 of this issue].
“My values matter more for this business … than making a profit.”
Smith is frequently asked questions about the absence of meat and dairy in her meal kit options. Despite once enjoying meat as a part of her regular diet, Smith decided to go vegan five years ago after learning about the detrimental impact on carbon and water levels as a product of eating meat. “I was eating this really mediocre steak, and it just didn’t feel worth it to me, all the labor and water to put this not-that-good piece of meat on my plate,” Smith says. She explains that she doesn’t foresee meat as something she wants to introduce as an ingredient offering. “Chow does change the way people eat, and that’s the reason that I keep going,” Smith says. “My values matter more for this business … than making a profit.” Smith’s goals are simple—she wants to get the community excited about vegan cooking and locally sourced foods. What Smith does hope to do in the future is lower the cost of the meals in order to increase SLC Chow’s accessibility and broaden her subscribers.
“It’s so important to think about your food, and whatever decision you come to, just don’t make that decision because that’s how you grew up,” Smith says. “Find out about your food.”