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People can't get enough of this new organic, vegetarian fast food.

Amy's Drive Thru is changing the fast food game, one vegan mac 'n' cheese at a time.

People can't get enough of this new organic, vegetarian fast food.

When you think about fast food, what comes to mind?

If you're like me, you probably start salivating as you imagine greasy burgers, gloriously deep-fried onion rings, and calorie-laden milkshakes. Yum.


Basically, this. Image via Thinkstock.

A new fast food restaurant in California is aiming to broaden that image by introducing a vegetarian option.

Andy and Rachel Berliner, the founders of Amy's Kitchen, originally launched their line of vegetarian frozen, canned, and prepackaged foods in grocery stores (you've probably seen Amy's organic, vegetarian, and vegan food in your local grocery store) after they found themselves frustrated with the vegetarian options available at the time.

Then the Berliners decided they wanted to take their mission one step further, envisioning a fast food restaurant where employees (who were paid a living wage plus health benefits) served vegetarian meals full of fresh local veggies.

That idea became Amy's Drive Thru, one of the first organic, vegetarian drive-thru restaurants in the country.

As of their opening in July, Amy's Drive Thru has proven to be a ridiculous success.

On opening day, Amy's served over 500 people — most of whom waited for more than an hour in line just to order. And although they expected business to slow a bit in the following weeks, the demand has just continued to grow.

There it is — the restaurant that vegetarian fast food dreams are made of. All photos below via Amy's Kitchen.

Why the crazy business? An Amy's spokesperson told Upworthy that it's likely all about pent up demand. People love fast food, but they want variety. And Amy's is delivering.

Not to mention, the food at Amy's Drive Thru is getting rave reviews.

Amy's serves organic veggie burgers, burritos, mac 'n' cheese, pizza, salads, chili fries, and even milkshakes (and, yes, you can choose from dairy or non-dairy options). Every menu item at Amy's can be made either gluten-free or vegan as well.

The coffee, vegetables, and even the milk come from local farms, too. "Our relationships with farmers and our knowledge of how to make delicious food on a large scale has really made this project possible. We've been able to keep the quality high and the prices reasonable," Andy Berliner said in a press release.

Yep — that's fast food.

I know, I know — but this broccoli cheddar mac 'n' cheese is fast food, too. It's also vegetarian and chock full of local ingredients. Drool.


Allergic to gluten? No worries. You can order gluten free everything (including pizza) at Amy's.

So here's to reimagining fast food in a new way, and keeping low price points at the same time.

A single burger at Amy's will only set you back $2.99. And a bowl of mac 'n' cheese? $4.69.

I don't know about you, but this double veggie burger might convert me to vegetarianism...

Fast food has become popular largely because it's convenient, easily available, and affordable, but we're all ears for ideas about how to add variety to that description.

Amy's Drive Thru seems to have it in the bag: fair wages for employees, local farm support, low prices, and a sustainable business model. Their tables, chairs, and building materials are even upcycled and sustainable.

So ... who wants to take a trip to California with me?

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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