‘Travel with food’ through community-inspired meal kits made in Grass Lake coffee shop

GRASS LAKE, MI – A Grass Lake business focused on cultivating community has used the coronavirus pandemic to highlight locally grown foods in international-style meals.

Owner Britt Keene launched the Roaming Goat coffee shop in 2016 as space for coffee and community, something she said she yearned for when moving to Grass Lake from Ypsilanti.

“I didn’t really find a sense of community for myself,” Keene said. “I kept walking by this one little crummy building and one day I told my husband that I thought we should open a coffee shop.”

The coffee shop at 115 S. Lake St. celebrated its fourth anniversary during the first weekend in October.

The café closed when the COVID-19 pandemic forced statewide stay-at-home orders, partially because foot traffic was down but more to protect the health of employees, Keene said. Conversations between Keene and her “co-caffeinator” MaryJane Marshall soon turned to the next steps to keeping their business going.

It didn’t take long for them to come up with community-supported agriculture meal kits.

Described as “CSA meets Hello Fresh,” the Roaming Goat puts together pre-measured ingredients with a recipe to make a unique meal on Fridays or Saturdays. Boxes range from $35 to $50, depending on the meal. The kits are meant to “graciously” feed four people with leftovers, as Keene said a recent test meal fed seven adults.

The idea came to Keene, who previously ran a CSA in Ypsilanti, as a way to inspire travel while most people were confined to their homes. She identified 12 countries and found recipes in their cuisine.

“A big part of my life is travel – hence the ‘roaming’ in Roaming Goat – so we decided we were going to travel with food,” Keene said.

Now, the Field to Kitchen Meal Kit is a regular part of Roaming Goat’s business model. Keene said they make about 20 boxes per week but hope to grow the program to as many as 50 per week.

Recent recipes include Polish cabbage rolls, Harissa sheet pan meal and Korean barbecue rolls. Boxes can be pre-ordered online under “field to kitchen kits.” This week’s meal is a Creole sheet pan fusion.

Like other products at Roaming Goat, most of the produce in the meal kits come from farms within 200 miles of the café. The business has always focused on 90 cents of every dollar going back into the local economy through the supply chain, Keene said, so purchasing for the meal kits was not much different than purchasing food for the café.

“It’s been the backbone of our business since we opened, supporting local entities and supporting small businesses, particularly female-owned businesses,” she said. “It’s something we’re both incredibly passionate about.”

Roaming Goat is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. It’s closed Sunday and Monday.

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