Featurepreneur: Solving School Lunches

Featurepreneur: Solving School Lunches
By Genevieve Allen Hearn

Healthy school lunches are a hot topic lately. Jenny Osburn has been taking us along her school lunch journey in The Grapevine, and we are starting to see some progress made when it comes to healthy food options in cafeterias. But how about lunches made at home? There are a lot of things to take into consideration, especially if you are a parent of a child with dietary restrictions or allergies. School Zone Foods is a new business started by Ashley Richards that hopes to relieve some of the school lunch stress in family households. Here’s how:

The Grapevine (GV): Tell us about your new business. Who is involved and how did you get started?

Ashley Richards (AR): We prepare healthy take-out allergen free foods for the local community. It’s a very family-oriented business. My children are official food testers, and also are involved in research and development when it comes to marketing foods to their school friends! They always have opinions on things I can do with my business and it gives me the biggest chuckle. My husband is extremely supportive and excited to see how School Zone Foods grows.

The idea for School Zone Foods came when my son started school in 2015. I realized how hard it was to purchase healthy, nut-free products to send with him in his lunch every day. Then I thought about the students/staff that had to live day-to-day with these allergies, and that’s what sparked the idea of School Zone Foods. A few years passed, and a chance to implement my business idea came about. I got in touch with PeopleWorx, whom offered wonderful opportunities for business start-up support. They also directed me to the amazing people at the CBDC in Kentville for training. We’re looking to open our Kentville location within the next month or so!

GV: Do you feel you are filling a growing need in the community?

AR: Absolutely! Time is so limited in day-to-day life that I hope to take the added pressure off of people when it comes to meals or meal time. Being a mother of two children that have diet restrictions, I understand the challenges that come with this territory. I would’ve loved to have my kids’ celiac/dairy free lunches pre-ordered for the school week, and not have to worry if their food contained dairy, gluten or sugars/additives. If I can give that relief to the community, I’ll be one happy camper.

GV: What should people expect from using your services?

AR: Clients can expect reliable service, quality products, and peace of mind. School Zone Foods is very flexible and can work with the customer to accommodate their needs. It’s as easy as giving us a call, text, email or visiting our website. We offer meal planning and local delivery to make it as convenient as possible for clients.

GV: Besides preparing meals, do you offer other services?

AR: Yes! There will be cooking clubs for kids that give them basic food safety education, and we will cater events like small weddings/parties/holidays or business meetings. We’ll offer affordable meal planning for people with dietary restrictions. We are also looking into family fun nights, like themed dances and possibly cooking outdoors/camping for the warmer months.

GV: What do you hope the community will get out of having this service available to them?

AR: I hope they will enjoy having healthy, affordable, and most importantly allergen-free foods to alleviate stress when it comes to preparing meals. I also hope to give them more time to spend with their families. Time is precious!

Learn more by visiting schoolzonefoods.ca or the School Zone Foods Facebook page.