They check all the marks for freshness, flavor, and elevating Blackness in the food industry.
I was standing in my friend’s kitchen, watching him toss shrimp and breadcrumbs into a sizzling pan and squeeze lemon over the top.
We were making po’boys, one of my favorite Southern sandwiches rich in flavor and generous with the bread.
I always assumed they were made better by the professionals, but here my friend was, cursing at Sunday night football in his sweatpants and casually telling me about the “fond,” all the little roasty bits in the bottom of the pan.
His eyes glimmered when he told me about the new dishes he had recently mastered.
When he told me he used a meal prep service, I was intrigued.
For about $60 per week, he had a box of fresh and specially curated ingredients delivered to his doorstep. Between gas for my car and random clothing purchases, $60 a week on delicious meals seemed like a responsible lifestyle upgrade for me.
When I chose a meal prep service, I wasn’t thinking about the company’s mission or whether they offered healthy meals that reminded me of my favorite foods from the African diaspora. I wasn’t considering the company’s commitment to my community or anyone else’s.
I just didn’t want to go grocery shopping.
I ended up using the same service as my friend. That was nearly 3 years ago. While I’m grateful for the culinary world I found there, I’m also grateful for the burgeoning Black-owned meal prep services that exist now.
Meal prep 2.0
It’s time for healthy meal prep services that are flavorful, convenient, and support talented Black chefs in the process.
First Batch Artisan Foods
When Chef Dymetra Pernell became a holistic health practitioner and started eating vegan, she soon missed her favorite food: ice cream.
The first batch of vegan ice cream she made springboarded her into business for the vegan community, and specifically for lactose-intolerant people of color for whom ice cream wasn’t an option.
While First Batch Artisan Foods found additional success with restaurants like Slutty Vegan and national recognition from the “Today Show,” COVID-19 made meal prep a necessity for people who have grown tired of cooking every day.
For members of the Black community, the fatality of COVID-19 highlighted the powerful relationship between diet and health.
“What you see and what I offer are all of my favorite things. For culture, we do Soul Food Sunday or Soul Food Saturday, where we offer the plates that are traditionally eaten in our household but without all of the sodium and… cholesterol,” Pernell says.
Beyond expanding First Batch Artisanal Food to meal prep, Pernell is preparing to ship her brownie, cookie, and peach cobbler mixes across the United States.
Restaurant patrons can look out for vegan breakfast options, which are often hard to find at nonvegan restaurants. Here’s hoping they make it to the delivery service soon.
Fit Chef Toronto
Led by Chef Amanda Chigumira, FitChef Toronto provides global cuisine to customers in the Toronto area.
Fit Chef Toronto is focused on helping customers with meal prep and delivery options that meet their dietary needs. Think gluten-free, vegan, low carb, and beyond.
Chigumira knows that flavor is essential to her customers.
“As a chef, I believe life is too short and the world is too vast to not dabble in all the flavors,” she says.
As such, popular menu items include Thai, Greek, Jamaican, Italian, and American dishes.
Fit Chef Toronto uniquely gives customers the option to text their favorite dishes to their chef to keep on rotation, and orders come in sets of 6, 10, 15, and 20 meals. All you have to do is heat them up and enjoy.
Chef Jess Meal Delivery
As a chef and nutritionist with midwestern roots and Atlanta swag, Chef Jessica Swift works hard to create “healthy-ish” meals for every lifestyle.
As she puts it, her food is inclusively for “those who are newly diagnosed [with health conditions] to business travelers who come home to an empty refrigerator… or the mom and dads that are busy and just want to make sure that there’s healthy food in the house.”
Following her dream to become a chef went against her father’s wishes for Swift to go to medical school. Ironically, she now uses her expertise to help her father manage diabetes through nutrition.
Empowering her father inspired Swift to offer her culinary and nutrition expertise to community members via private classes and special events. She eventually opened her own commercial space with professional staff.
Swift Meal Delivery is now a family-run business, with Swift’s brother acting as chief financial officer and her sister serving as chief operating officer.
Subscribers in the Washington, D.C., area can enjoy fresh eats like sweet potato pancakes and roasted tomatillo carnitas for single delivery or weekly subscriptions.
Field of Greens DFW
For biochemist and nutritionist Chef Janel Fields, meal prep isn’t just about healthy eating. It’s about healthy families and communities.
When she saw family members deal with preexisting health conditions, Fields began to alter her cooking methods. She reduced or eliminated certain ingredients, like dairy, from her dishes.
Her family was initially skeptical of the diet Fields introduced, which she credits to their “true New Yorker” status. Still, she quickly won them over with her results and her own personal progress.
“I’m on this journey with them. So, I’m eating the foods that I’m cooking for them, with them. I’m living a balanced lifestyle. Now that they see the changes physically with me, they’re like, OK, how can I do this?” Fields says.
With Field of Greens, you can choose from an assortment of proteins, salads, and sides, like cauliflower rice and lemon Broccolini. Fields is also set to release a cookbook with savory recipes that empower people to prepare their favorite fried foods with healthier air frying and broiling methods.
Global Village Cuisine
Whether you want to grab your favorite dinner from the freezer or prepare a healthy meal yourself, Vermont-based Global Village Cuisine proudly offers options for “total convenience.”
Global Village Cuisine is a family-owned business that started when co-founder Damaris Hall sought food for her child with food allergies. She turned to her roots in Kenyan cooking, using traditional gluten-free and allergy-free methods.
Damaris and co-founder/husband Mel expanded their offerings from their home to local markets and festivals. Then they opened a restaurant.
Their diet-inclusive menu quickly spread outside the area, and Global Village expanded regionally to offer Pan-African cuisine in local Whole Foods and Wild Oats markets, in addition to their delivery services.
The beauty of Global Village is that their frozen meals preserve nutrients while eliminating the stress of cooking.
“Damaris has a wonderful talent for being able to cook things right to the place where right when you warm it up, it tastes like somebody made an African meal and invited you home for some hospitality,” Mel says.
With meals like Swahili curry chicken and Moroccan lemon chicken and olives, I ain’t mad. Meal prep orders start at $50 with free shipping.
It can be overwhelming to choose a meal prep service that’s right for your lifestyle, especially if it’s your first time. When I asked these meal service providers their advice, they had a few suggestions.
Hall asks, “Is the food ethically produced? Is it healthy? Are there [whole food] ingredients?”
Fields points out that “a lot of people truly do eat with their eyes. If it doesn’t look appealing, nobody wants to try it.”
Wright reminds consumers to get informed.
“Ask your questions! Many meal sites are open to questions and have FAQs sections, so start there,” she says.
According to Chigumira, look for variety.
“Choose a company that rotates the menu often and gets creative with their dishes,” she says.
“Look at how convenient it is for you… How the meals are packaged should make sense for you and your situation,” Pernell adds.
Whatever direction you go, you can be confident that the options above will check all the marks for freshness, flavor, and elevating Blackness in the food industry.
Zahida Sherman is a diversity and inclusion professional who writes about culture, race, gender, and adulthood. She’s a history nerd and rookie surfer. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.