As co-founder, former CEO and current board member of HopeStreet Group, can you elaborate on your personal view of the intersection between education, health and jobs and how that has informed your choices as founder and CEO of your new company, EatLove?
I’m attracted to people who are dedicated to solving the tough problems in America. Hope Street Group’s diverse professional networks are phenomenal. These individuals are well-connected, smart, and resourceful. We have a shared vision for widespread economic opportunity and the combined expertise and collective will to make something substantive happen. Health, education and jobs are the foundational engines of economic opportunity and when these interconnected systems are performing well and incentives are aligned for success, the entire country prospers.Our 2012 project, “Using Open Innovation to Reinvent Primary Care” engaged health care providers across 30 states and the positive results crystallized in my mind – the need to empower families to take charge of their own health. EatLove was designed to be the practical, scalable and comprehensive solution to healthier, personalized meals at home. We have the support of health professionals including registered dietitians, physicians and diabetes educators across the country to let families know that EatLove, a trusted source for everything to plan, cook, prep and shop for homemade meals is now available.
You are in the midst of a 15 city #FindYourEatLove tour. As you are connecting with individuals across the country, what have you discovered and what has surprised you about different people’s views on food, nutrition and wellbeing?
Food has become increasingly important and personalized to the modern family yet we have more demands on our time and attention than ever before. Food can be a positive influence on your health and family. However, we found that no matter what country people came from or what their socio-economic backgrounds were, everyone wants to have more quality, sit-down dinners without the stress. Stress was the most noted determinant for not having enough homemade meals – the stress of making meals their families would love, the stress of having to decide and do all at once, and the stress of not having enough time to just sit and relax.
People had all types of food preferences and dietary lifestyles, but what remained consistent was that people highly valued the act of sitting at a table and enjoying a meal together. They knew the importance of family meals, but they didn’t know how to get there. EatLove shoulders some of the hard work of planning, shopping, and prepping so families can return to the dinner table. We take out the guesswork so that they can focus on having quality time with those they love. We know that being connected helps us to live happier and healthier lives.
Hope Street Group recently worked with stakeholders in Chicago to help inform a critical component of the city’s Healthy Chicago 2.0, their four year plan to improve health and wellbeing–food insecurity. EatLove also recognizes the need to expand access to healthy food beyond traditional demographics. How are you all working to make that a reality?
It’s a big part of our mission. We want to provide an affordable service to families to help them cook delicious, nutritious meals while saving time and money. Leanne Brown, author of NYT Bestseller Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day, is one of our wonderful content partners who focuses on creating recipes that are both health-conscious and affordable. Don’t let the word ‘cheap’ in the title fool you. Her recipes are tasty and well-balanced! People have access to her content and all the functionalities of our platform for free.When our registered dietitians and smart engine create meal plans, they take budget and number of fresh ingredients into consideration because we want to ensure that people only buy things they will use and be sure that when people are spending money, they make every ingredient count. We work hard to screen content partners to ensure they have the same goals we do so that we can get that cost per serving number down and increase the number of servings of veggies and fruits.
Hope Street Group strongly believes in a cross-sector and collaborative approach to making meaningful change in our areas of focus. Has that belief system stayed with you as your focus has turned to expanding access to healthy food?
Of course. Anything of measurable value takes a village to execute! My core strategy is to build and engage what I like to call the “coalition of the reasonable” around the issues that matter to us most. Our content partners are dynamic and offer a tremendous variety of talent and cuisines. People partner with us because they believe in the mission and they’re working towards achieving the same goal – making flavorful, nourishing home-cooked meals approachable and enjoyable. We have huge amounts of data and nutrition information available that can help us personalize our meals – no more one size fits all, it has finally come together and fits nicely on your mobile phone.We’ve formally partnered with Vitamix, a beloved household brand, whose values and goals align very closely with ours in terms of increasing food-accessibility and reducing food waste. We want to show people that healthy, whole foods are not out of reach and in fact, easily attainable. Another great partner is the Family Dinner Project, based at Harvard University, an organization that helps us put the fun back in food with their conversational starters.