February 18, 2014 // Franchising.com // BOISE, IDAHO - Two and a half years ago, Valerie Ellis took her personal passion for nutrition to the community. She began conducting raw food workshops at natural grocery stores to educate her neighbors on a healthier lifestyle through raw eating.
"I've always been an advocate for nutrition and eating healthy options," said Ellis, a 54-year-old Meridian resident. "But a few years ago, my doctor discovered a spike in my liver enzymes and I knew I had to make some changes in my life."
Ellis' biggest lifestyle change was switching to raw foods. After she saw a difference in herself, she began hosting community events to educate others on the benefits of fresh foods and a raw diet. She also recently went back to school to earn a business degree. During a class on franchising, Ellis discovered Wholesome Tummies and realized she could make a career out of her passion for healthy eating and nutrition education.
Launching on January 13 and serving the western portions of Idaho, including Boise, Nampa, and Meridian, Wholesome Tummies addresses the lack of nutrition that is common in kids' school lunch programs. She is already working closely with Calvary Christian School in Boise, and looks forward to signing contracts with other local institutions in the area. Ellis, a mother of five and grandmother of nine, understands the challenges parents face when preparing meals. Five of her grandchildren are gluten-intolerant and Ellis has worked to create delicious options for them.
"There are a lot of gluten-free children in the area," added Ellis. "And I want to expand the menu to accommodate them. A school lunch program isn't easy, especially with picky eaters like my children. It's important to get them involved in the process and expose them to new food options. I asked my kids to test my new cookie recipe and without even knowing it they picked the gluten-free cookies over the original recipe."
At her core, Ellis is an educator and she plans to expand her scope to incorporate more local gardening and fresh foods education to create a lasting difference in children's eating habits. Her recipes for fresh sides and gluten-free options are already being incorporated into the national Wholesome Tummies menu.
According to the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health, 27.8 percent of children ages 10-17 in Idaho are overweight or obese, ranking the state 11th nationally in overall prevalence in children. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nationally approximately 17 percent of children aged 2-19 are obese. But for 60 million children around the country, half of their daily food intake occurs at school.
The Wholesome Tummies Healthy School Solution consists of three parts: access to fresh foods through the company's lunch, catering and vending programs; education to teach about real food and further the educational mission of schools; and involvement activities like fundraisers and a scholarship program that keep parents and kids engaged and schools invested.
The process is simple: Wholesome Tummies contracts with schools to deliver meals each day. Recipes are designed by nutritionists and chefs with the ideal portions and nutritional content for growing children, and include crowd pleasers like pizza, macaroni and cheese, orange chicken and baked French toast. The team creates two new items each month to keep things interesting. Parents can choose to opt in to the service and place orders for their kids through the WT Café website. There are no long-term contracts and parents can order as many meals each month as they wish, whether it's one meal or an entire month's worth. Meals are prepared fresh each morning in a local commercial kitchen, then delivered to schools in time for lunch. Meals can also be prepared on-site if a school has its own kitchen. Plus, unlike many other lunch programs, Wholesome Tummies allows parents to order just 36 hours in advance for added flexibility, and meals can be cancelled, if needed, as late as 8 a.m. the morning of pickup.
Founded in 2007 in Orlando, Fla., Wholesome Tummies began franchising in 2010. Since then, Wholesome Tummies has expanded to 18 locations throughout the country, with plans to reach 25 units by the end of this year. Long-term goals call for 250 locations within the next five years. For more information about Wholesome Tummies, visit www.wholesometummies.com.
SOURCE Wholesome Tummies
Sanderson & Associates