Finding Flavorful Ingredients During Quarantine

As people across the country adapt to at-home quarantines, many food lovers are finding ways to stock up on pantry staples for extended periods of time without sacrificing flavor in their daily meals. As it has become more difficult to procure household goods at supermarkets and bodegas alike, some have avoided the rush to raid store shelves. Instead, many are turning toward more interesting heirloom options. 

Some people are buying directly from suppliers like Rancho Gordo and Maine Grains. Rancho Gordo, an heirloom bean producer in Napa, California, said they’ve definitely seen a spike in orders over the last month. According to Steve Sando, Rancho Gordo’s founder, “We are seeing four times the number of orders, and it seems to be from hoarding and stockpiling.” 

Maine Grains, a producer in Skowhegan, Maine specializing in grains, flours, and cereals is seeing a trend inspired by the same impulse. Amber Lambke, president of Maine Grains, specifically noted that they “are hearing that our oats are selling out due to COVID stockpiling.”

Other people are seeking out purveyors that pull from several heritage sources, like New Haven, Connecticut-based food subscription service Ben to Table. The company specializes in monthly boxes of restaurant-quality, shelf-stable ingredients for avid home cooks - bringing together products like Geechie Boy Mill grits and farro, Burlap and Barrel spices, and Rancho Gordo beans. Ben to Table also created a “provisions” box specially curated for folks in quarantine, which quickly sold out.

According to Ben Simon, the CEO, “there’s definitely been an uptick of interest from customers wanting to make sure that the shelf-stable ingredients they’re preparing with are interesting and delicious, above and beyond their calorie count.”

One such customer, Matt Compton, of Washington, DC, ordered an “Essentials” subscription because he says, "I believe in being prepared. With all the uncertainty we're all facing, I want to make sure that our pantry is well stocked for whatever the future brings."

In addition to serving individuals and families who are quarantining at this time, Simon is glad he can support independent businesses by offering them an alternative supply chain. One producer told him “85% of orders dried up overnight because so much of their business was supplying restaurants, mostly in California.” 

By curating high-quality, independently produced goods for his subscription service, Simon is assisting makers as they shift their strategies to sell more of their products directly to consumers. He says, “I see this as helping move that along in terms of getting these products in more people’s homes and also helping to avoid the grocery store pileup.” 

As we all look for creative ways to connect with our communities during quarantine, online food delivery and subscription services are proving critical in many people’s lives. If you’re looking to spruce up your pantry staples without having to leave the house, you can view Ben to Table’s subscription boxes here. And don’t forget to use the code HRN – you’ll get $20 off your first subscription, and Ben to Table will donate $10 to support HRN’s programming.

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