Business provides sustainable food system for Columbus community, Ohio State football players

The Lantern
Yellowbird Foodshed, founded in 2014, is a company that connects shoppers with groceries from over 100 local producers. Credit: Courtesy of Leah Schaffer

Since 2014, a small business delivering to Columbus has aimed to help other Ohio-based entrepreneurs by creating a system that brings food straight from the farm to the table.

Yellowbird Foodshed , located in Mt Vernon, Ohio, is committed to providing customers with natural produce, meat, grocery and wellness products through weekly subscription boxes and an online grocery store, Benji Ballmer, founder of Yellowbird Foodshed, said . Working with over 100 local food growers and producers from Ohio, each product has been sustainably raised, harvested and transported.

“There are all these different things that contribute to the wellness of an individual, and food is such an important piece of it, but it’s just a piece,” Ballmer said. “When it comes to the food, we want to be able to bring the fresh, nutrient-dense, local food right to our customers so they don’t have to try and do it all themselves.”

Ballmer said small growers face huge disadvantages in the industry, which inspired him to create a system that can sell food from local farmers in large quantities.

“There are lots of people that no longer trust the big food system that brings food to grocery stores, for multiple reasons,” Ballmer said. “They want to know it wasn’t sprayed with chemicals and that the dollar they spend is going directly to the person who grew that food. What we’re doing is coming in and making a meaningful impact at the farm level so that the people who are actually growing the food are the ones who get paid.”

Yellowbird Foodshed recently began providing food to several Ohio State football players who have busy schedules and little time to create healthy, well-rounded meals, Ballmer said.

Sophomore safety Lathan Ransom, a second-year in communication, said as a student-athlete, Yellowbird has provided him with a great way to get healthy food despite his busy schedule.

“As a college student, it’s hard to go to the grocery store all the time and get food,” Ransom said. “When I started eating healthier, I saw how much it affected me just by changing little things in my diet. It was great that I got in contact with Yellowbird, and they really helped me out.”

Ballmer said athletes are not the only group Yellowbird aims to reach, but rather all college students who want a fridge full of healthy food but are short on time or lack cooking expertise.

“There’s definitely a need in the college individual’s diet for fresh, wholesome, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, but what program is there in place to make sure they have access to it?” Ballmer said. “The idea is to get these football players, and really all college kids, the nutrients they need.”

Ransom said Yellowbird Foodshed is a good option for anyone — student or not — who is looking for a healthier and more ethical way to consume food.

“From college students to people working a job, having an easy system like Yellowbird can go a long way for a lot of people,” Ransom said.

Weekly subscription boxes, which Ballmer said serve as the core of the business, come in three different sizes and price ranges from $25-$45. They can be delivered at home or picked up on Thursdays or Fridays from different routes around Columbus. He said customers will receive the various routes to choose from upon purchase.

“Every single item and every single product that we carry is sought out, and we trace it straight to a farm,” Ballmer said. “We hang our heads on that. We are super proud of that.”

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