Sizzle Simmer Sauté – Urbivors delivers produce straight to dorms and doors

Jennifer Ruple

University of Toledo engineering students Jacob Beakas and Jason Gonring noticed over the years that there weren’t a lot of options for healthy food for students other than what was available in the school’s dining hall. The students, both from Sylvania, began discussing ideas about how they could help improve access to fresh and local food for students and others living in urban environments. Already with a lot on their plates, Beakas is now a UT graduate and working full time as an engineer and Gonring is a full-time student, the two worked out a plan to create a start-up food delivery business. “The idea just made sense to us for this community,” said Beakas.

In July, Beakas and Gonring transitioned from friends to business partners and launched Urbivors, an online marketplace and grocery delivery service. “Our name is a play on words between urban and herbivores,” said Beakas. “Urban meaning we’re trying to improve access to fresh and local food in urban areas and herbivores are plant eating animals,” he explained.
“We started our trial about two months ago where we would deliver to dorms, apartments and houses in a one- to two-mile radius of UT’s main campus,” said Beakas. The partners also coordinated a vegetable drop-off shelf located at UT’s Parks Tower where students can pick up their orders.
Urbivors partners with local food sources to supply its products including Riehm Produce Farm, Eshleman Fruit Farm and Monnette’s Market. “We pick up produce when our partner farmers are in town for farmers markets or CSA deliveries. We typically pick up in the evenings and deliver that same day,” said Beakas.
With a successful trial under their belts, Urbivors has expanded its delivery service to residents in nearby communities including Old Orchard, Ottawa Hills, West Toledo, Sylvania and Bedford. “We’re pretty new and still learning about the logistics and day-to- day challenges,” said Beakas.
To order products from Urbivors, customers can shop from an online store and add items to their virtual carts. “Our ordering process is easy,” mentioned Beakas. “Customers can go to and visit our marketplace. There are individual items to order, and we have meal pack options. Customers can also select a delivery day,” he added.
Currently Urbivors offers mostly produce but Beakas and Gonring are working with grocery stores to be able to provide more options for customers. On the website, there are items customers can order per piece such as bell peppers, red onions, jalapeno peppers and cabbage. Tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots can be ordered by the pound. Meal packs are also available and provide ingredients and a recipe card.
For those living in dorm rooms, Urbivors created simple recipes that don’t require access to a full kitchen. “Our meal packs come with all the ingredients needed to make a really fresh dish or appetizer such as pico de gallo,” explained Beakas. Urbivors is also working on an event to teach students how to cook. “We want to give students better access to food as well as teach them skills so they can cook for themselves,” stated Beakas.
“Our market is really anyone who is looking for an alternate way to get their groceries, eat healthily and use local products,” said Beakas. “There are plenty of people out there who want to eat healthier and don’t have means to get to local produce.”

Urbivors’ Pico de Gallo
“A refreshing appetizer and an Urbivors favorite, the Pico De Gallo pack includes juicy tomatoes, candy onions, jalapenos and cilantro in the right portions to whip up a delicious dip for game day or garnish your tacos with a 100 percent locally-sourced topping,” said Beakas. “This pack makes approximately 6 cups of Pico de Gallo, perfect for sharing.”
4 beefsteak tomatoes
2 candy onions
1 bunch cilantro
2 jalapeno peppers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chop the tomatoes, onions and cilantro into fine pieces. Place in a large bowl.
Slice the jalapeno peppers and remove seeds. Chop the peppers and add them to the tomato mixture. Stir gently.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Gonring Family Beef Stew
1 1/2 pounds cubed beef stew meat
28 ounces beef broth
1-2 tablespoons Better than Bouillon beef base
6 ounces tomato paste
4-5 cups vegetables, chopped (potatoes, carrots, celery etc.)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
Thyme, sage, parsley or other fresh herbs as desired
Salt and pepper to taste
Cornstarch to thicken, if desired
Toss bite sized pieces of beef in flour.
In a large pot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and brown beef over medium high heat.
Stir in the broth and beef base and simmer until beef is tender.
Stir in the tomato paste. Add the vegetables, onion, corn, herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer and cook over medium to low heat until the vegetables are tender.
If desired, thicken the broth with corn starch.

Urbivors’ Butternut Squash Soup
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cubed
2 or 3 cups chicken stock
32 ounces butternut squash (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon Better than Bouillon chicken base
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel and cube squash and remove seeds. Place squash in a covered bowl with a bit of water and microwave it until soft.
In a large pot, melt butter and sauté the onions until soft. Add cream cheese to the pot and stir until melted and smooth. Add the chicken base and stir until combined. Stir in the cooked squash.
Transfer half of the squash mixture to a blender and process with a cup of chicken stock until smooth. Repeat with the remaining squash.
Return squash mixture to the pot and add chicken stock until it reaches the desired consistency.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

To reheat: the soup will thicken upon standing, so add more broth as needed.

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