This post is part of a series on sustainability in the health and wellness industry, curated by Becky Eisen, Dana Ledyard, Izabel Loinaz. Follow along with the series here.
Heather StoufferFounder and CEO, Mom Made Foods
Over the last few decades, Americans have been feeding their children fried, fat and sodium-laden, white or artificially rainbow-colored, vegetableless foods. We lead busier and busier lives and we stop less for meal times. Our current bill of health for American children is not pretty. 1 in 3 kids is obese and 1 in 3 will have juvenile diabetes. Between drive-thrus and Americans spending less time in the kitchen, it makes me pause when I think about what the children of today will feed to their children tomorrow.
Founding Mom Made was my answer to the challenge of finding healthy and easy alternatives for my kids when I was in a pinch without time to cook. My current day-to-day life is extremely hectic as the mother of an 18-month old and a 5-year old, the CEO of a rapidly growing company and the wife to a sports reporter (note: out covering games most evenings). If I am not traveling for business, I am running out Mom Made’s door at 5:30pm to pick up my kids and race home to get a healthy dinner on the table. My kids are too young to help expedite the cooking (although my 5 year old now sets the table – hooray!)
I grew up with a single mother who worked full-time. She didn’t have time to cook homemade meals every night, but she made family dinners a priority. It was a regular occurrence to get a call from mom at her office around 5pm to give us our cooking assignments. Fajitas, for example, meant that my brother, David, would prep the chicken and marinate while I chopped the vegetables, grated the cheese and set the table. Mom would come home at 5:45pm and we would cook together and have dinner on the table by 6pm. Cooking with fresh ingredients and involving me and David in the process paid off–my brother is now a professional chef and I founded and currently run Mom Made Foods.
In the midst of the hustle of mine and my husband’s work lives, the one constant that we maintain is making dinner time a priority to enjoy together. Since 6 months of age, the children have joined us at the dinner table. We’re far from perfect but we do try very hard to be good-eating role models for our children. We don’t sneak anything into their meals. We don’t reward them for eating one food or another. We eat family style and our 5 year old serves himself. All of the options on the table are healthy and he feels empowered as he makes his own choices. I remember the first time he served himself a forkful of salad. I’ve never seen a boy so proud. It took about 400 meals with salad on the table before he made that move.
After six years in the natural and children’s food industry, I have seen the industry develop significantly. The big food companies are starting to ‘healthify’ their products aimed at children, though they still have a ways to go. The consumer is starting to become more aware of the importance of the USDA organic seal, the difference between all-natural vs organic, and the benefits of meats raised without antibiotics and the nutritional needs of their children.
We hold out hope at Mom Made that the glass is more than half full and that we, and the rest of the industry, are headed in the right direction to improve the health of our children. We come to work every day excited about the small steps that we’re making to marry healthy foods and convenient foods for children. I could be running a profitable doughnut business but instead I focus on making space and time for family meals together, not just for my family, but for thousands of others too.