As a chef for restaurants as esteemed as The Ritz Carlton in Miami, Jared Cannon would cringe every time food was thrown away. Half-full plates would return to the kitchen only to be emptied into the trash, while perfectly good steaks would be discarded if they weren’t cooked to a guests’ liking.
He heard the same justifications time again––how the kitchen was too busy to donate the food or how the restaurant could be sued for not preparing food properly––but these answers weren’t good enough for him.
It is estimated, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, that about one-third of food that is produced for human consumption is wasted; in the United States, $160 billion worth of food is wasted, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. As Cannon says, “imagine the number of hungry or homeless people that could be fed with food that is just put in the garbage.”
Just open the fridge, grab a jar and Venmo Simply Good Jars $10––the company relies on an honor system, but a sticker that reads, “Jared is watching” can be found on the fridges. All jars are made ready-to-eat, so after shaking the jar well, you are ready to enjoy. Then, return the empty jar to the Simply Smart Fridge for reuse.
For four years––as Cannon bounced from kitchen to kitchen, eventually landing in Philadelphia––an answer to such a daunting issue sat in the back of his mind. He was a young chef who never wanted to start his own restaurant, but he had a passion for creating meals. So the question he asked himself was: “How could I marry a better food product with a mission to waste less?”
He took what he calls “the leap of faith” in November of 2017, launching Simply Good Jars with $1,000 and an idea: “Eat well, feel good, waste less.”
The company’s vending machines can now be found throughout Center City in workout facilities or co-working spaces, such as Flywheel Sports Rittenhouse and the Curtis Center. But the Simply Smart Fridges, as they are called, aren’t stuffed with potato chips and candy bars; rather, they contain jars full of salads and breakfast items, made from locally sourced ingredients, like smoked salmon, baby arugula or seasonal fruits.
Just open the fridge, grab a jar and Venmo Simply Good Jars $10––the company relies on an honor system, but a sticker that reads, “Jared is watching” can be found on the fridges. All jars are made ready-to-eat, so after shaking the jar well, you are ready to enjoy. Then, return the empty jar to the Simply Smart Fridge for reuse. For $26, Simply Good Jars also offers a subscription service for weekly delivery of three lunches or two lunches and two breakfasts or five breakfasts and snacks.
Simply Good Jars is a B-Corp certified company, and promises to donate one meal to the homeless and hungry for every jar that is returned. So far, the company has donated 5,644 meals.
Cannon doesn’t just want to eradicate food waste––although his company has reduced 3,425 pounds of trash––he also wants to increase access to healthier food in places “where life happens and where time shrinks.” He understands that many of us often skip breakfast or turn to the brownies that a coworker brought in to hold us through lunch, only to then have anxiety about what to make for dinner. “We become victims to time,” he says. “Sometimes it’s easier just to eat fast food. That’s what we want to change.”
Within six weeks of launching, Simply Good Jars had a waitlist of 400 people, whether that be businesses who wanted a vending machine full of products, or subscribers who signed up for weekly deliveries of 3 jars. Today, that wait list has nearly doubled to more than 750, with monthly sales consistently increasing by over 100 percent, according to Cannon. The company hasn’t yet swung a profit, but hopes to by October or November.
“Our promise is under 600 calories, super tasty and five-days fresh,” says Cannon, 32. “We aren’t trying to hide anything. The ingredients are simple; it’s an easily-understood product. You know, it’s a clear jar––you can literally see what is in it.” All jars are made in West Philadelphia just a few blocks from the company’s office at the 1776 co-working space near University City.
There’s the salmon salad, made with a hot, smoked salmon, a lemon vinaigrette, Israeli couscous, fennel, cucumbers and baby arugula. Or “The Apple Jawn” made with an apple cider apple sauce––made and hand-canned by a 75-year-old couple in Pennsylvania––apples, oats and granola.
The company partners with farms in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, but the furthest distance that any product travels is from Radicle Farms in Broadway, New York, only about 100 miles away.
“Some people question the five days fresh promise,” said Cannon. “The thought is, like, ‘How can this be fresh when the lettuce in my refrigerator doesn’t last two days?’” But Cannon added that ingredients that Simply Good Jars uses don’t travel across the country for a week before reaching inventory and eventually a home kitchen. In reality, he says, lettuce that is newly harvested locally will sit uncovered for seven to 10 days before going bad.
Simply Good Jars is a B-Corp pending company, and promises to donate one meal to the homeless and hungry for every jar that is returned.
“People are reacting to the idea of local or hyper-local food,” says Cannon. “You see urban vertical farms or farmers markets. There’s a movement toward localized food sourcing. People are realizing the importance of local farms.”
For Cannon, seeing all the labor, hard work, care and dedication that goes into farming his ingredients has fueled his core belief that food should not be wasted so flippantly. That’s why each Simply Good vending machine is closely monitored to gauge the habits of the customers at its location––those at a gym want lower-calorie jars, while those at work want protein-rich jars. By tailoring each vending machine to these trends, Cannon further mitigates against waste.
In the years to come, Cannon hopes to expand beyond Philadelphia, but not without the company’s core values as a socially responsible business.
“We aren’t just trying to put better products out there,” he says. “I really think that we can truly grow to an enterprise level and eradicate hunger and food waste, or at least have a hand in doing so.”Simply Good Jars