The delivery service utilizes produce orders from local restaurants to feed those affected by COVID-19.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo courtesy of Orlova Maria for Unsplash; other photos courtesy of Alexandra LittleJohn.
“It started because I didn’t want to go to the grocery store,” says Alexandra LittleJohn point-blankly when asked why she started her own produce delivery service in Boulder, Colo., called the LittleJohn Produce Box Project.
Alex probably isn’t the only one who has come to detest the grocery store during COVID-19. Leading up to and after the initial shutdown of countless businesses throughout the world, the grocery store became not only one of the most crowded places to visit, but also a major point of stress. Social distancing restrictions caused incredibly long lines to form outside, and inside were disappointingly empty shelves typically occupied by toilet paper stock, cleaning supplies, and dry grains.
However, developing the LittleJohn Produce Box Project did emerge out of more than a simple need to avoid the grocery store. A longtime wholesale coffee representative, Alexandra had been working for OZO Coffee prior to getting laid off; during the weeks leading up to COVID-19-mandated shutdowns, she had been working with Fresh Guys Produce, a local delivery line between farms and farm-to-table restaurants, to bring boxes of produce to herself and the baristas at OZO. The staff there also wanted to avoid the grocery stores, as they had been exposed to potential COVID-19 transmissions enough already at their jobs and in the roastery.
When businesses officially closed their doors to the public, with consequential layoffs, both Alexandra and Fresh Guys worked together to redirect their services to help the greater community in Boulder and Denver. Fresh Guys changed their business model from delivering to restaurants to delivering to individuals; they wanted to continue to support their farmer partners, and Alexandra wanted to continue delivering produce to individuals in need.
“When I got laid off I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to continue it because I wouldn’t know anywhere else that was going to allow me to take 10, 20 boxes of produce around,” Alexandra explains. Her friend then offered to share her bakery as a space to continue the project. Once she began inquiring for help with donations, the project flourished. “When I posted about it on my social media pages, people just started sending me money to donate boxes to people in need, so I had to find an outlet to give boxes,” Alexandra says.
The LittleJohn Produce Box Project was then connected to Valverde Elementary School to deliver boxes to families in need, and Oatly stepped in to donate 25 boxes a week to laid off baristas. Currently, with additional donations by Torani, the project donates 20-30 boxes every week to those affected by the pandemic. They include fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs, and even boxes of Oatly. LittleJohn Produce Box Project is officially a registered nonprofit in Colorado, and is in the process of seeking a 501c3 status, which will allow them to apply for federal grants to continue supporting the project.
In a time where many have been questioning their careers, or simply looking for a new fulfilling hobby, Alexandra believes that now is the time more than ever to pursue the next step. “Right now is the time of why not? So if you were ever going to try something new or start your own business, now is the time. You have nothing to lose,” she says. “Our food system is broken, so that’s what inspired me. I think as hospitality professionals we want to continue to serve people, so finding ways to pivot to continue doing that is really important. At least for me because that’s what feeds my soul.”
To support the mission in Colorado, donate a box yourself here, or grab a box for yourself here. LittleJohn Produce Box Project is also active on Instagram with fresh updates to produce.