KILBOURN PARK — A grocery delivery service that recently launched in Chicago is letting customers donate money to feed Ukrainians fleeing their homes.
Food Rocket, a delivery company that started in 2021 in San Francisco, expanded to Chicago last month. It is partnering with humanitarian meal program World Central Kitchen for its #ChefsForUkraine initiative, which has gathered chefs to feed Ukrainian refugees in cities across the country and at border crossings with Poland, Romania, Hungary and Moldova.
Food Rocket customers in Chicago can donate to World Central Kitchen when buying groceries through the app to help Ukrainian refugees access fresh meals, CEO and founder Vitaly Alexandrov said. Customers can search for #ChefsForUkraine in the Food Rocket catalog or explore the app’s special category, according to a news release. The full amount will be sent to World Central Kitchens.
World Central Kitchen opened a kitchen and food supply depot in Poland next to the Ukrainian border and has a warehouse in Lviv, where trucks are filled with food and supplies headed for eastern cities to support a strained supply chain.
The effort also is intended to help some of Food Rocket’s colleagues and their families in Ukraine, Alexandrov said. He said he hopes his company’s contributions can make a difference for families displaced by the war.
“We are sad about the situation and decided to support the Ukrainians,” Alexandrov said. “World Central Kitchen is close to what we are doing — working with food. That’s why we decided to support them and to donate money, especially for this program for Ukrainians at the border.”
Food Rocket offers door-to-door delivery within 10-15 minutes of the order’s placement. People can also shop at one of the three dark stores or order items for pickup, Alexandrov said.
The company wants to work with local food vendors and get to know its neighbors, he said.
“We plan to launch hot coffee and charging stations for e-bikes for people,” Alexandrov said. “We want to be part of the community and not just some warehouse that is closed to the public.”
The company launched stores near Kilbourn Park, in Wicker Park and Uptown, and plans to add 25 stores around the city in the future, Alexandrov said. Each store delivers to neighborhoods within a 2-mile radius, which includes Portage Park, Irving Park, Albany Park, Edgewater, Lincoln Square, Logan Square and Bucktown, according to the company’s delivery map online.
The company wants to soon cover West Loop, Gold Coast, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, South Loop and River North, Alexandrov said.
The startup is similar to other courier delivery companies in the city, like Getir. Buyk, which expanded to the city at the beginning of the year, closed earlier this month after leaders said sanctions from Russia led to its major funding sources being cut off.
Alexandrov, who is Russian and recently moved to the South Loop, said Food Rocket’s funding comes from investors at Circle K. He said the company is “an American company” with an international team.
To fight food waste, Food Rocket plans to add unsold produce and items that expire soon to the app Too Good To Go, where users can buy meals at a discounted price from local grocers and restaurants. The Danish company launched in Chicago over the summer and has sold more than 26,000 meals that would otherwise head to the trash at more than 320 restaurants in the city since December, according to the Columbia Chronicle.
The company also plans to partner with local nonprofits and food pantries that can pick up excess food once a week and deliver it to folks who need it most, Alexandrov said.
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