Feb. 15, 2016Vol. 46, Issue 4

A Fresh Idea: Fresh Pick

Sophomore Kendyll Lightle, who is majoring in nutrition and food sciences, helps during meal pickup at the Center for Healthy Communities.

In a post-Dolly Parton society, most adults have at least heard of, if not experienced firsthand, the struggle of working a 9-to-5 job—the “barely gettin’ by,” all the “givin’ and no takin’.”

Less talked about, however, is the after-work struggle. You come home after a long day at the office. You put up your feet for the first time since your afternoon 15. A familiar rumble from the gut reminds you that there’s now at least one hungry mouth to feed at home, if not more.  

Then comes the great dilemma—will it be the macaroni from the blue box or the ramen noodles from the Styrofoam cup?

It’s this very dilemma that California State University, Chico’s Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) hopes to avoid altogether with its new program, Fresh Pick. Twice each week, the program provides fresh-cooked, ready-to-eat meals for the hungry campus community and beyond.

“That’s the idea we’re going for,” said Kristen Gruneisen, program supervisor for the CHC. “People don’t have time to cook—maybe the interest, maybe not the desire, certainly not the cleanup that goes along with it—we feel like that’s a corner of the market we cover that isn’t already established.”

Founded in fall 2015 and now moving on to its second semester of operation, Fresh Pick is as simple as its slogan: “Whole food, fun flavor.”

The CHC uses its readily available resources—registered dietitians on staff, rented kitchen space through Italian Guys Catering, etc.—to develop a simple menu that satisfies the basics of whole foods nutrition.  

“We don’t use a lot of processed food,” Gruneisen said. “Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, limited meat or proteins, that’s a healthy way of eating.”

The menu itself is available on Fresh Pick’s website and features entrées ranging from meatloaf to barbeque bowls to enchiladas, and almost always with a vegetarian option. Meals are prepared Tuesday and Thursday mornings by a team of about 50 student interns, packaged on site at Italian Guys Catering, and then brought over to the CHC at 25 Main Street in Chico for customer pickup from 4-6 p.m., which is also managed by students. 

High-quality ingredients are used in Fresh Pick meals, including this black bean butternut squash chili served January 28.

High-quality ingredients are used in Fresh Pick meals, including this black bean butternut squash chili served January 28.

On the customer’s end, Fresh Pick is even simpler. Would-be buyers need only look at Fresh Pick’s online menu for photos of entrées, ingredient and nutrition information, and the days that entrées are available. After that, it’s as simple as choosing your meal option (meat or veggie) and the number of entrées you need, and then checking out through PayPal. All orders must be submitted by midnight on the Thursday before pickup day.

Aside from feeding Chico State’s hungry mouths, Fresh Pick also provides a service for the University’s helping hands. According to Gruneisen, Fresh Pick offers internships for students in myriad roles, “everything from soaking the beans the night before to packaging the next day.” The program attracts students from a diverse range of majors—from nutrition to kinesiology and even a history major.

Maggie McNees, a fourth-year health administration major, has been working for the CHC for a year now and manages administrative tasks for Fresh Pick as well as Tuesday and Thursday pickup.

“I like to think that everything I do [at the CHC] enhances my education,” McNees said. “But especially at Fresh Pick—seeing both the administrative side and setting things up, and then actually doing customer service and bringing people their food—I think it’s really helpful.”

Looking to the program’s future, Gruneisen stated that she hopes to increase Fresh Pick’s customer base to generate more revenue for the CHC. Revenue generated by Fresh Pick supports the CHC’s overall program costs, including resources for service programs like Senior Meals and the Harvest of the Month

Additionally, Gruneisen hopes that, through programs like Fresh Pick, the CHC can continue to give Chico State students hands-on experience outside of the classroom.

“We refer to it as experiential learning,” she said. “That’s huge. I’m a Chico State alum, and there was nothing like the CHC when I was a student here. To get that experience working with different programs, teams, and events—I don’t think you can put a price tag on that.”

For more information on the CHC, visit the center’s homepage. For information on interning with the CHC, visit the center’s internships page.

Editorial assistant Zach Phillips may be reached at zsphillips@csuchico.edu

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