I scheduled my first meeting with Ryan Groll of Eat Sprout for 9:00 a.m. on a Thursday. When I arrived, his wife and business partner Emily Groll said that he wasn’t in yet and was likely still trying to get the kids straight for daycare. Within minutes of returning to the office I had an email from Ryan apologizing for his tardiness. Emily was right, getting the kids ready for daycare proved to be more time consuming than he had anticipated. As a father to a toddler, I recognized those same battles I faced each day.
When we met later that day, we sat outside to admire the landscaping and benches that they had just installed. Eat Sprout’s new Aurora Street location is helping to bring life to a part of Easton that is being rejuvenated with other businesses reinvesting in existing properties. Eat Sprout’s new facility has become their base of operations for all their food programs. What started as a food delivery service now provides customers another option to grab their meals and go.
As Ryan and I spoke, it didn’t surprise me that family and community were the cornerstone of their business and shaped many of their decisions. Ryan explained that what they are trying to do is tell great stories about the food that they prepare. Without a strong community, there is nobody to tell those stories to.
That is why Ryan and Emily chose Easton for their business location. Ryan was born in Anne Arundel County and was a resident there for 25 years. Ryan explained that he came to know more people and felt more involved in Easton in the first six months living in Easton than he did in all his years living in across the bridge. “It’s just that sense of family here that you don’t find in too many places,” Ryan explained. “So, you’ve got to hold onto it when you can.”
With his newfound community and a growing business, Ryan is working to expand his audience so that he can tell the food stories that matter most to him. Tho
se stories begin with knowing where your food is coming from and being mindful of its production. With a young family to manage alongside an expanding business, Ryan understands the importance of healthy eating and the challenges and busy routines other families face.
When I asked Ryan what he wishes he could change about the food production industry Ryan’s answer was simple. “Food waste,” Ryan said. “Food waste is more important to me than even food education.” That response speaks volumes considering Ryan holds a degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition.
Ryan explained that 40 percent of the food we produce in the world is wasted. “40 percent. That’s disgusting,” Ryan proclaimed. “It’s not just the food you’re wasting it’s also the resources, the agriculture, the time, the money, the oil, everything that went into producing that 40 percent just went to complete waste. So, if we can eliminate the food waste first and then tackle food education and knowledge second then I think we will be in a much better place. That is our biggest concern here.”
To battle waste, Eat Sprout has embraced and fosters a culture of mindful production and responsible consumption. None of the packaging they consider trash. Everything is recyclable or compostable and packaged sensibly to help prevent over consumption. Even the forks are made from corn. Ryan jokes that he doesn’t even know why they have trash cans.
That model is reflected in the food that they prepare as well. “We don’t have a set menu,” Ryan said. “What I got from the farmers is what we are going to utilize, and we are going to use it all the way to the end.” Ryan and his team advocate for local produce and sustainability. They go out of their way to utilize “ugly” sweet potatoes or “second run” produce. These are items that may get overlooked on grocery store shelves, but still have the same nutritional value as their beautiful counterparts.
The team at Eat Sprout are having fun and creating what they want, and their customers are reaping the benefits. They are making their own nut butters, they use local honey, they have their own coffee beans, and have recently instituted an in house organic bread program. They even have plans for bottling their own drinks, juices, cold brew coffees, teas, and anything else the costumers are asking for.
“We haven’t been marketing any of that because right now it’s been a really good natural organic growth where everyone is coming in either from social media, word of mouth, or are past costumers,” Ryan explained. “We will start to market and really push all the style products we are offering soon.”
As their costumers become followers, they will always have a say in what they want. They contribute to the story and experience Eat Sprout is crafting. “We aren’t a grocery store and we’re not a restaurant,” Ryan said. “We ultimately are trying to tell a story about where your food is coming from, how it’s being cooked, how we do everything. Our vision for the future is not a short-term solution.”
To learn more about Eat Sprout, visit them at 335 N Aurora St, Easton, MD 21601. Find them online at www.eatsprout.com and on Facebook and Instagram @eatsprout.