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Farmer’s Fridge introduces two new grain-based bowls

Chicago-based Farmer’s Fridge, known for selling fresh salads and breakfast goods out of vending machines, is adding two grain-based bowls to its offerings for those days when you need something heftier.

“I love salad, but I eat Farmer’s Fridge on average more than once a day, so it’s a great opportunity for me, personally, to expand my available options,” said Luke Saunders, founder and CEO of Farmer’s Fridge.

The company has 100 locations throughout the Midwest, and up until this point, has mostly served salads, yogurt parfaits and overnight oats.

Now, it has released a Southwest quinoa bowl, made with tri-color quinoa, white hominy, black beans, corn, tomato, sharp cheddar cheese, pickled red onions, green onions and avocado crema, and a pesto pasta bowl, made with multigrain rotini pasta, a nut-free basil pesto, basil, red onion, tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and spinach.

Both bowls can be eaten as-is or warmed up in a microwave, making them the company’s first nonchilled items.

“As a business, we aim to help our customer to eat better,” said Jessica Foust, culinary director and dietitian with Farmer’s Fridge. “We want to provide food that people feel good about eating and is available 24 hours a day in 100 fridges.”

Saunders said he sees the bowls as an extension of the salads that the restaurant has been producing.

Each day, Farmer’s Fridge machines are stocked with jars of food prepared that morning, and every night, whatever is left is donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The company has also partnered with Zero Percent, a technology company that takes excess food from businesses and delivers it to nonprofits, to help them develop an algorithm that reduces waste.

“Instead of building a product to meet the needs of the company, we have built a company around the needs of the product. Everything is centered around pushing the production of our products as late as possible and preparing the ingredients as needed,” Saunders said.

Saunders said he recognizes that people have an inherent distrust of packaged salads, so he likens Farmer’s Fridge to a restaurant, where food is carefully examined for quality control.

For example, the pesto pasta bowl is purposefully layered to have the pasta on the bottom and the spinach at the top. This way, any excess moisture can be absorbed by the pasta while the spinach, separated from the pasta by a layer of basil, cheese and tomatoes, sits at the very top to avoid wilting.

The Southwest quinoa bowl is a heartier dish that is a greater departure from the existing menu, aimed toward people who may not normally eat salad, Saunders said.

“Our customers have been asking for new flavors and menu experiences from the Fridge, and I’m very excited,” said Foust.

All Farmer’s Fridge machines will carry both bowls starting Wednesday.

Originally featured in the Chicago Tribune.