Sure, you could fight traffic on the way to your nearest grocery store, search frantically for parking, get lost in the maze of food choices, and fill your pantry with provisions of unknown origins and dubious ingredients. Or, you could pull out your phone, select your groceries from a list of locally sourced products, and have them delivered right to your door the next day. New Foods Market, Portland’s new online grocery store, hopes to reshape the ways that communities interact with their food. All you have to do is fill up your cart on the New Foods Market website, choose your delivery or pick-up time (there’s a physical location in the Redd), and before you can say “food conglomerate,” you’ll have the finest plant-based organics that the Pacific Northwest has to offer at your fingertips. Fruits, veggies, grains, baked goods, coffee—if it’s grown near here, chances are good that it can be found in the New Foods Market online catalog.
CEO and founder Joe Miller built his business model on the ideas of transparency, nutrition, and sustainability. “New Foods Market pledges to be a sustainable food source for the community,” Miller explains. “It’s no longer hard to eat local, organic, and waste-free.” And they do mean waste-free. The market operates a reusable container exchange between consumers and producers; every time you receive a new batch of groceries, simply return your empty bags and containers to be re-used by local suppliers—and to earn yourself some store credit.
New Foods also believes in cultivating close relationships with its suppliers. “We work directly with local vendors,” Miller says. “Most of them are pretty small; a lot of them are independent, women-owned businesses, etc. We make sure that that information is available so that people know who they’re directly supporting with their dollar.” To that end, while browsing products online, customers can read descriptions of the growers and producers behind the products, and get to know the people and businesses that are providing their food.
Miller argues that this type of plant-based, sustainable agriculture is a more responsible (and perhaps even inevitable) approach towards food than our current societal norms. If you’ve ever devoured (while simultaneously being mortified by) films like Cowspiracy or Before the Flood, Miller’s message might sound familiar: “It’s very apparent that the number-one contributor to climate change is animal agriculture,” he says. “A big reason why we created New Foods Market was to cater to a new diet, which needs to be plant-based, because this current model is unsustainable.”
While online grocery delivery isn’t exactly groundbreaking, the ideas behind New Foods Market are part of a broader push towards a new, community-oriented future of food. For folks who believe that our current global food culture is being destroyed by irresponsible industrial farming and agricultural practices, the people and principles represented by this small local food market stand out as a beacon of hope, helping to illuminate our collective path to the future of food production and consumption. (And if nothing else, hey, at least you get to skip the long checkout lines.)