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The Daily Tar Heel

Students turn to meal kit delivery services to cook in quarantine

Katelynn Laws dices an onion in the kitchen of her apartment on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. Despite the warm evening, Laws opened a window to let in some fresh air.

From closed restaurants to grocery shopping regulations, the pandemic has affected our relationship with food in many ways. As a result, people are spending more time at home and have been finding creative ways to feed themselves and their families. 

Over the past few months, one trend that has become popular is subscribing to meal delivery services, such as Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and Daily Harvest. According to Businesswire, the meal kit delivery market is expected to increase by $15.93 billion over the next 4 years. Companies work by mailing portioned ingredients to your door, making it easier to cook and follow recipes.  

Meal kit delivery services are especially helpful for people who may not have much prior experience with cooking. Hello Fresh user Graham Gunter, a UNC senior, said the service has provided recipes that he and his roommates can easily follow.

“It’s a lot better than pre-prepared/cooked meal programs that you can subscribe to as well, like Freshly, because they give you the perfect amount of ingredients so nothing goes to waste, and the steps are easy to follow,” Gunter said. “It has also made me a better cook given I couldn’t cook almost at all before we got Hello Fresh.”

Another advantage of using a meal delivery service is that it is a time-efficient way to cook homemade meals. Especially in college, many students don’t have time to shop for groceries or prep meals.

Sophomore Payton Kaeding, a Daily Harvest subscriber, said this is a main factor in her decision to use the service. 

“When I started getting busy with school and work, it was something to fall back on,” Kaeding said. “It’s super convenient, and I can skip deliveries if I think I won’t be needing it. Everything is super sustainably sourced and healthy – haven’t had any issues with my orders so far.”

She said the service provides morning smoothies with cold brew in them that she loves.

"It's convenient that I eat my breakfast and get my caffeine fix at the same time," she said.

Although quarantine has helped people improve their cooking skills, for others, coping with changes in their daily routines has been more difficult. 

Janie Hoag, a registered dietician and co-founder of Custom Fit Nutrition and Wellness, LLC, said the pandemic’s impact on mental health has had some negative effects relating to diet and health.  

“The biggest struggle I see is dealing with the stress and anxiety that comes with so much uncertainty,” Hoag said. “With diet, that leads to larger portions, less healthy choices and more calories from drinks. There's so much negativity out there on the news, and people are finding comfort in food. Unfortunately, no one's comfort food is a healthy salad.” 

As restaurants begin to reopen, people can now take a break from cooking and return to eat at their favorite spots. However, Hoag recommends to try and continue cooking at home, as this is the best way to have complete control over what you are fueling your body with.

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