photo: courtesy raw

Raw vegan items, such as these collard burritos, will soon be available at the Raw's new River North location. 

Polly Gaza co-owns both the Chicago French Market stall and the forthcoming River North location for Raw (51 W. Huron St., 312-664-2729), a raw vegan grab-and-go business whose name is also an acronym for Raising Awareness Worldwide. She told us about what motivated her and her business partner, Carole Jones, to run Raw. Here’s her answer in her own words, condensed and edited:

“I was passionate about making sure fresh food went into my kids’ bodies, to take care of their immune system. Good-quality fat is very important. Before the age of 7, children’s brains are developing, and so much of the fat in processed foods is trans fat. You see kids bombing around. They are filled with sugar. They’re running around eating things with sugar, food colorings, additives.

“Basically, I’ve always had a passion for nutrition. Ever since my kids were little, when I took them to school, they said you couldn’t bring homemade food to school. They wanted everything in a package, store-bought.

“[Jones] and I met at another raw vegan restaurant. Chemistry-wise, we connected. A couple of months later, we decided we should give [Raw] a shot. It’s something that no one else has done in this country: a raw, vegan fast food café. It’s all raw, vegan food packaged every morning—over 130 items—and we sell out by the time of close.

“One of my favorites is yogurt, made from fresh, pure coconut meat. Dehydrated items, such as kale chips, sweet potato chips, nacho chips. Muffins, granola, macaroons. Crackers from almonds. Fresh almond milk, hazelnut milk.

“Like a GPS, you are eventually going to get there if you head in the right direction. We’re trying to control the amount of disease in this country. We feel that every time somebody comes through our business, if we have raised their awareness and consciousness level of what they eat at their next meal, we have done our job.”