The continued decline of print has left several downtown newsstands vacant for the past several years, but a local business is bringing new life to these shuttered structures. The first of four planned e.a.t. spots opened in a repurposed newsstand at 368 West Madison Street on Monday, offering a menu filled with healthy, local foods, including a selection of wraps designed by former Frontera Grill chef Shaw Lash. The bright yellow kiosks are open Monday through Friday from 7am to 6:30pm, serving up organic fruits, gluten free baked goods from Defloured Bakery, and snacks and beverages all supplied by Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks.
The e.a.t. spots are the brainchild of Ken Waagner, a local entrepreneur who has founded several nonprofit businesses while serving as a web consultant for local rock band Wilco. An extension of Waagner's e.a.t. (education, agriculture, technology) nonprofit, the stands are staffed by Streetwise, an organization which helps individuals who are at risk of homelessness find job training and employment. “At e.a.t., our mission is to increase awareness of healthy, local food and to make it accessible to everyone,” Waagner said in a statement about the new stands, which he eventually hopes to expand into Chicago neighborhoods.
A second e.a.t. spots location is scheduled to open in two weeks at 151 West Van Buren Street. For downtown workers looking for a more nutritious alternative to the Loop's wide selection of burritos and burgers, these food stands are poised to become wholesome oases.