Good Bowls, a Chapel Hill-based initiative that provides healthy frozen meals to community members, will be starting a new Pay-It-Forward campaign at the end of March.
Good Bowls initiated the Pay-It-Forward program last summer to help the company deliver meals to families experiencing food insecurity and to help small restaurant businesses during the pandemic.
The programs runs every other monthly. Community members can donate meals online and Good Bowls works with a local restaurant to cook the meals. After the meals are produced by volunteers at the restaurants, they are frozen and distributed to families, grocery stores, schools and workplaces.
The January round of Pay-It-Forward was the company's biggest yet — with over 800 donated meals.
Alice Ammerman, UNC nutrition professor and director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, founded Good Bowls as part of her company, Equiti Foods, in 2018. For years in Chapel Hill, she has researched the social determinants of health and the impact of the existing systems of food equity — work that led her to create Good Bowls.
“People who are at highest risk for chronic disease tend to be those who are most food insecure or have the least access to healthy food," Ammerman said.
In Orange County between 2018 and 2019, 18,030 people out of a population of 141,812 experienced food insecurity, according to a county profile from the Food Back of Central & Eastern North Carolina. That year, 15.5 percent of children under 18 were food insecure, the profile said.
Tych Cowdin, executive director of Communities in Schools of Chatham County, oversees the distribution of meals to local families.
"We serve as the liaison between the community and the people providing the resources, which in this case is Good Bowls,” Cowdin said.
Ammerman said that Good Bowls' Pay-It-Forward program has provided over 1,500 meals since it began. Good Bowls recently became available at UNC, Elon and Campbell University. Good Bowls also delivers to Hillsborough, Pittsboro, Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh.
After hosting tasting events at the campuses they are expanding to, Ammerman said students were excited about the opportunity to access nutritious frozen meals, as well as to support the local food economy in the surrounding North Carolina communities.
On UNC's campus, Good Bowls can be found at Rams Head Market. Good Bowls is also available at Weaver Street Market and the Durham Co-op Market.
UNC sophomore Tajin Proctor said they are glad Good Bowls is available on campus.
“It allows for people who are on tight schedules to meal-prep," Proctor said. "Sometimes you don't have time to set aside during the day. It's really good for students to have a healthy alternative so readily available."
Howard Allen, the co-owner and manager of Faithfull Farms, has been working with food his whole life. He noted that getting food from local sources ensures that it is fresh and nutrient-dense.
“When we can source food locally, we have an increased chance to understand where our food came from so there's more integrity in the food,” he said.
Ammerman said she hopes Good Bowls will help local farmers who are facing the effects of the pandemic and food commodification by building producer networks and sourcing ingredients from the area.
"The whole agricultural system has been moving more and more towards more bigger, more concentrated and more mechanized farms, but we're recognizing the environmental damage of that," she said.
Ultimately, Good Bowls aims to increase accessibility to affordable, healthy and tasty food. The organization uses flexible pricing that takes customers' income into consideration.
“We can use food that's normally wasted, like if it doesn't look pretty or if it's too much for one season, so that avoids the food waste," Ammerman said. "Then we sell it at a higher price point to people who can afford it and support the mission, so that we can subsidize the price for lower income folks."
Chapel Hill residents can support Good Bowls by buying or donating meals online.
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