By Logan Lowrey-Rasmussen; photos courtesy of Spencer Redmond
As Arizona swiftly becomes the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Toronto-based quick service vegan restaurant — with a Phoenix location — is stepping up to the plate and putting nutritious meals in the hands of frontline workers at Valley Wise Health in Phoenix.
Coined “Feeding the Frontline,” operating partner Spencer Redmond says the initiative’s goal is to feed one worker per ten dollars in the unit, and recently surpassed the donation amount for their anticipated third round of meals.
“Valley Wise is the oldest health system in Arizona, and 70 percent of patients are underserved, underinsured, or on public assistance; these workers are fighting COVID on the forefront of the pandemic,” says Redmond.
“I know it's just lunch for the day, but it's nice we can give them a healthy break during their workweek. We fed 78 members of the COVID-19 unit so far.”
Presently a Canadian citizen on a work visa, Spencer brought Freshii to Arizona — to a spot in downtown's Arizona Center — from Toronto on April 1, 2019. He says it was his dream to franchise a business. The 28-year-old operating partner first began his work with the company in 2017 after tearing his ACL in basketball.
“I realistically tore it because I was overweight and out of shape, and through the physical rehab process, I changed my diet after not having one previously,” says Spencer Redmond.
“I was twenty-four behaving like I had a metabolism of a fourteen-year-old; a row of birthday cake Oreos was like a regular thing for me.”
After physical rehab, Redmond says he began working out and losing thirty pounds thanks to Freshii after falling in love with his favorite dish, the Buddha’s Satay bowl. Consisting of rice noodles, broccoli, crispy wontons, green onions, carrots, and cabbage topped with a spicy peanut sauce, all of Freshii’s fare comes in the form of bowls, burritos, wraps, soup, and salads.
“I began this journey because I saw the impact it had on my life, and I wanted to give that to other people as well.”
When customers first come to Freshii, Spencer says people expect a salad bar, based on the restaurant's “healthy” focus but are surprised to learn “healthy” comes in more than one form.
“I like breaking people's expectations; we have a massive menu which serves the guy who tries to eat healthily but doesn't know how to, and also have options for the veteran vegan who eats everything super healthy,” Redmond continues.
“We have meals for everyone, and my expectation is that people can find something no matter what background they come from.”
Although the pandemic has affected in-store business for Freshii, Redmond says the majority of their business comes from third party delivery apps.
“We are pushing heavily on apps and catering, and we also do a lot of catering to medical offices; I try not to think in a post-pandemic mindset and take it one week at a time.”
Redmond says they have already begun construction on a new location in Arcadia on Indian School and 44th street, but the project is currently on pause due to the pandemic.
“We are currently working on making healthy foods convenient and affordable for everyone."
If you would like to donate a meal to the initiative, please visit this link to their official website and feed a frontline warrior today.