I realize about 10 seconds too late that I’ve walked into the back entrance of Clover Food Lab in Cambridge. It’s packed with people eagerly awaiting their food, and snippets of conversation hit me in waves as I wade through the crowd. I spy one open stool at a dark-lacquered wooden table running the length of the kitchen where half a dozen employees are filling orders.
I am meeting up with Scott Jacobsen, co-founder of DoneGood, a startup that developed an app and website for finding socially conscious businesses in Boston, for lunch at Clover. There isn’t a cash register or even a line for ordering, just a throng of people reading the menu painted on the front wall. We make our way towards a woman holding an iPad, shouting the names of people and sandwiches, to place our order. She recommends The Carrot, a vegetarian sandwich featuring roasted carrots, fried farro, honey lime cabbage slaw and habanero sauce stuffed into a pita pocket. Despite the seeming chaos of customers and kitchen, we get our food incredibly fast, which is no surprise considering that Clover is reinventing the fast food model.
I had never been to Clover before, but Scott recommended it since he knows that The Clean Food Club supports small businesses and eating local. Clover Food Lab has 7 food trucks and 7 brick and mortar restaurants across eastern Massachusetts. They make (almost) everything with fresh ingredients from local farms. The carrots in my sandwich are from Siena Farms in Sudbury, MA, and the pita is made in-house with wheat grown and ground in Western Massachusetts. During the growing season, Clover acts as a middleman for local CSA programs, serving as a produce drop for farms and a pickup location for customers.
Clover is also trying to raise wages for their workers to $20 an hour, which is twice the state minimum. This filters their business into the “supports workers” category on the DoneGood app, one of the eight categories conscientious consumers can utilize to find businesses that share their values. You can search on the app using filters to find businesses that best suit your values, like green, veg friendly/humane, gives back, locally sourced, and minority/women owned. These filters are what separate DoneGood from other review sites: they help consumers decide where to spend their money, ensuring that they’re supporting companies that support their community and share their values.
The next time you’re hungry or in need of a good yoga class, pull out your phone and use the DoneGood app to find a business that is doing good for people and the planet. All of the ratings on the app are aggregated from trusted organizations and user reviews, so if you stumble upon a business that sources locally, has organic food, or falls into any of their other categories, tag their impact in the app for other Bostonians to find.
Check It Out: This Thursday, DoneGood and General Assembly will host “The Good Behind Your Goods: A Conversation with Clover,” a discussion about the new business model that focuses on making a positive difference in the world while earning a profit. Sign up for FREE here and keep an eye out for more talks from DoneGood and General Assembly.
Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist based in Boston, MA. She created The Clean Food Club in 2016, and previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. She is committed to supporting local and sustainable food businesses by telling their stories with photo and video. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.