On Wednesday mornings this summer, you’ll find Kelsey Hakeem and Jenny Bongiorno at Fulton Street Farmers Market selling delicious, organic, ready-to-eat foods. Made with ingredients harvested from their own gardens—and supplemented by foods from local farms—the menu usually includes a soup, salad, baked good, and a beverage. Hakeem, an urban farmer and mother of two sons, Mosiah, 7, and Cairo, 8, has long been a proponent of eating healthy, whole, organic foods. Her farming career has included stints with Our Kitchen Table, Urban Roots, and other local growing projects.
“Last week, we did a greens salad with tomatoes, cucumber, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons with balsamic vinaigrette, along with a pesto pasta salad with fresh peas and summer squash, zucchini carrot muffins, and strawberry lemonade made with fresh strawberries,” Hakeem says. “We grew some of the food and also sourced from Visser, Blandford, Rakowksi, and Shady Side farms.”
The pair’s farmers market venture is the result of a savvy promotional strategy that involves a local nonprofit, Revive and Thrive. While providing a platform for promoting Hakeem and Bongiorno’s new catering business, Lunch, their sales also support the nonprofit’s programs.
“This is a way for them to generate a little revenue and we’re out in the public, recruiting volunteers,” Hakeem says. “And, we’re serving foods that are in line with what they serve, whole foods that promote healing, [and] are locally sourced and mostly organic.”
An affiliate partner of the Ceres Community Project in Sebastopol, California, Revive and Thrive provides nourishing, whole-foods meals for Grand Rapids area residents experiencing life-threatening illnesses and their families. Because treatments, like chemotherapy, can sometimes lead to malnourishment, eating nutrient-rich foods can make a vital difference for patients. Revive and Thrive’s website states, “These delivered meals provide vital nourishment when every bite counts. This significantly relieves stress on the entire family and caregivers from the daily responsibilities of preparing meals, educates clients and their families about healthy food choices, and promotes positive eating behaviors.”
Buying lunch from the women of Lunch is one easy way for farmers market patrons to upscale their own eating behaviors. Enlisting Lunch as caterer for an event is another. The pair’s first booking is a fall wedding. The menu includes a soup and salad buffet and appetizers all made-from-scratch with locally sourced ingredients, including luxury items grown in Bongiorno’s Creston neighborhood backyard.
“We try to mostly grow things that are expensive to source, like herbs and edible flowers, to maximize the value of our space. For example, we’ll buy the potatoes from local farmers, but we grow the basil, parsley, and dill,” Hakeem says. “We have been using a lot of edible flowers in our salads, unusual things that people might not think to eat. We’ve used borage flowers, violets, kale flowers, pea tendrils, the kinds of things a farmer wouldn’t have the time to harvest or market. They take time to pick, are fragile, and we pick them the same day as served.”
Lunch serves lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday at Fulton Street Farmers Market. For information, contact Hakeem and Bongiorno at [email protected].
Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Lunch