• Emily Livingston

Here’s a trivia question: What type of retail establishment opened 1,800 new locations in the U.S. in 2019 (accounting for 65% of all new brick and mortar stores) and feeds more people than many of the country’s largest grocery chains?

Believe it or not, dollar stores are a big business that’s growing even bigger -- but while they offer easy access to everyday goods, that convenience comes at a price, putting the economies (and health) of the urban and rural communities they serve at risk.

So what’s so bad about discounted canned goods, paper products, and toys? The answer isn’t in what they do sell, but what they don’t: fresh foods. With a smaller, less perishable inventory to manage and fewer employees needed to stock shelves, stores are inexpensive to run.

In some communities, especially low-income neighborhoods, this has meant the loss of independent and even big-chain grocery stores that can't afford to lose business.

What’s more, it’s meant the loss of sources of healthy, nourishing produce in “food deserts,” where residents already may have unreliable transportation or other obstacles to getting to the grocery store.

But startups like grocery delivery app Food Forest are taking a different approach to the problem of access -- one that gives shoppers the ability to enjoy healthy, local foods, regardless of location or income.

With two free weekly restocks, Food Forest brings fresh meat, produce and more to neighborhoods throughout Cincinnati. And by accepting EBT as payment, they’ve further reduced the barriers to healthy food.

Cincinnati-based startup Food Forest is reimagining the grocery delivery game -- and helping other small and local businesses grow in the process -- by thinking smaller.

Since going live in mid-2019, Food Forest has partnered with Incubator Kitchen Collective, which gets local food-based startups off the ground, to bring its products to the marketplace.

And a partnership with Cincy institution Findlay Market has connected the market’s dozens of independent vendors (and its fresh, locally sourced foods) to Food Forest’s shoppers. Both partnerships were made possible by a grant from Main Street Ventures.

The Food Forest philosophy is simple: getting the freshest foods at the best prices to all people, with free next-day grocery delivery to locations throughout Cincinnati via its easy-to-use app.

While major grocers can offer same-day delivery (for a fee), this slower approach promotes sustainability and reduces waste by keeping inventory in check.

It also gives Food Forest the time to source items from multiple small and specialty businesses whose products can’t be found at chain supermarkets or big-box retailers, or who may have barriers to getting items in a brick-and-mortar space.

Shoppers can get more of the products they love in their carts with less time wasted (and often at better prices), and local businesses can reach more customers than with foot or web traffic alone by skipping the shelves and cutting out the grocery store middleman.

Food Forest is always looking for new partners and new items to offer its growing customer base. If you’d like your product on Food Forest’s virtual shelves, email

And to schedule your next grocery delivery and learn more about how Food Forest is making grocery delivery more accessible and affordable, download the Food Forest app on iOS or Android or the Findlay Market Online Shopping app (powered by Food Forest) for the full Findlay Market Experience.

Here is a list of the homegrown businesses available through the app along with thousands of your other favorite supermarket items.


Country Meat Co.

Dojo Gelato

Eckerlin Meats

Em's Sourdough Bread

J.E. Gibbs Cheese

Grayson's/Mike's Meats

Luken's Poultry, Fish, & Seafood

Mackie Quality Meats

Maverick Chocolate

Kofinas Olive Oil & Vinegar

Pet Wants

Roth's Produce

Taste of Belgium

The Arepa Place

Urbana Cafe

Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices

ETC Produce & Provisions

The Healing Kitchen


Stellar Street Eats

MidWest Meal Plans

The Body Bakery & Co.

  • Emily Livingston

‘Tis the season for charitable giving, and many of us are looking for ways to make a difference amid the holiday hustle and bustle. But what if you could bring the gift of groceries to food-insecure families in your community with just one click?

This holiday season, Cincinnati-based grocery delivery app Food Forest is partnering with food pantries in the Cincinnati and Columbus areas to connect their clients with tasty, nourishing foods -- and give the public a simple way to donate.

An app-based food drive is a win-win for pantries and givers alike. Those who donate save a trip to the grocery store and pantry while still receiving that warm, fuzzy feeling you just don’t get from writing a check. And with every donation tracked through the app, pantries can more easily monitor what’s on their shelves and even request specific items.

Making a donation is easy. Just download the Food Forest app on iOS or Android and start shopping! At checkout, choose the pickup “hotspot” at your area pantry, and the folks at Food Forest will make sure your order gets delivered right on time.

With more than 4,000 items to choose from on the Food Forest app, you can build a basket with items like eggs, lunch meat and produce -- no more searching the back of the cabinet for that last can of corn or dusty box of spaghetti. Fresher, more varied items mean pantries can better serve clients with the high-quality foods they most need.

“Fresh produce, dairy, meats, personal hygiene, and baby formula are items that many pantries are always in need of,” says Alan Gross, guest services coordinator at CAIN, which runs a food pantry on Cincinnati’s Northside. “Unfortunately, there are so many different types of these items that keeping a good amount and a good variety stocked is difficult.”

The app-based food drive aligns with Food Forest’s mission to bring online grocery shopping to everyone, regardless of income or location. Food Forest offers free next-day delivery to locations throughout Cincinnati and Columbus, and also accepts SNAP and EBT payments.

By cutting out the middle man, Food Forest can offer competitive prices on thousands of items and be more thoughtful about where your food comes from -- from the grocery store to local farmers' markets. It’s all about making food shopping more sustainable and less wasteful.

If your organization is interested in partnering with Food Forest for a food drive, email To place your next grocery delivery order, download the Food Forest app today.

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© 2019 by Food Forest LLC Cincinnati, OH