In 2014, Carine Rosalia set out to help busy parents’ prepare easy, healthy lunches that kids would actually WANT to eat. “Getting the lunch box ready every morning can be a chore,” Carine explains. “It’s hard enough to find time to shower in the morning so staring at a blank lunch box and pouring over Pinterest for inspiration is hardly an option for any busy parent.”
That same year, Reuters brought attention to the shortfalls of kids’ lunchboxes quoting Kristie Hubbard’s research Eastern Massachusetts public schools. Hubbard is a researcher and registered dietician at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. She notes that “most of the foods we saw were pre-packaged salty snack foods and sugary desserts – we saw much less fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy.” The research points out that only 27 percent of the lunches meet at least three of the five National School Lunch Program federal standards, which include fruit, vegetables, grains, meat or another protein source and milk.
Children have trouble concentrating when they are hungry. A nutritious lunch helps kids focus in school and is essential to helping them grow. The USDA has made it one of its focus to educate kids, including pre-schoolers, make healthy choices with campaigns such as My Plate providing multiple resources to learn about food groups. Organizations like No Kid Hungry, which Carine supports, also has programs across the United States designed to help kids in need have access to meals and food-skills education so they are able to do well in school without running on an empty stomach.
But packing a healthy lunch is often easier said than done. What do you pack that transports easily, doesn’t need to be refrigerated or heated up, doesn’t contain nuts, and meets USDA guidelines? And what can parents make day after day that doesn’t take hours to put together after a busy work day or on a hectic morning getting kids out of the door? That is what Carine wanted to solve in her quest to “Conquer the Lunch Box.”
Carine’s idea for This & That Lunch Kit came when she became a single mom. Right as she was finishing her maternity leave, getting ready to go back to work, she found herself taking care of a newborn by herself and wondering how she was going to juggle full-time career and raising a child. Her daughter was transitioning to solids and Carine set out a new routine of making simple vegetable-packed quiches to fit into her daughter’s bag for the daycare provider. Carine grew up in France and the inspiration for these little quiches came from the childhood picnics that she made with her mom. “It was a very simple quiche that we would make to pack in the cooler. I made a spin-off of this family recipe and filled my recipes with vegetables. Suddenly, the possibilities were endless and could be adapted to what was in season that month.”
Carine adds that making batches of these novel quiches, that she began to call Lunch Squares, saved her time every morning because she did not have to think too hard about what would go into the lunch and then take time to assemble it. She could take a Lunch Square out of the fridge and into the lunch box, add a fruit or apple sauce and hand it to the nanny. “It saved my sanity,” she says. “Parents have a lot to handle. We want our kids to eat healthy but getting ideas everyday for something that meets USDA guidelines and is fast to prepare is no joke.”
As she was dealing with the difficult separation, Carine decided to channel her sadness and anger into something constructive. A personal crisis can bring about a sense of urgency that an entrepreneur needs to bring a project to completion. And propelled she was. When Carine saw other parents’ interests in the Lunch Squares, she decided to put her energy toward a solution that would help make parents lives easier and children’s lunch healthier. To ensure that the her recipes would meet kids’ needs, she consulted with a nutritionist. Nelly Lellu, French nutritionist specialized in pediatric nutrition, worked with Carine to evaluate her recipes against French and U.S. dietary recommendations.
As her daughter grew and Carine became more familiar with the school parameters for the lunch box, she added a new challenge: the Lunch Squares would have to meet the most common school restrictions so parents could use her recipes for a healthy lunch box in schools across the country. “The no nut policy, in particular, was a challenge because schools in France don’t seem to have much awareness around nut allergies.”
The other piece of Carine’s project was to tackle how little time parents actually have to bond with their kids. Carine says she was very interested in many of the craft and activity subscriptions boxes (Surprise Ride, Kiwi Crate, Little Passports, to cite only a few) but even weekends can get pretty hectic. By writing-up kid-friendly recipes, shopping lists with educational value for kids and introducing accessories that kids could use to decorate their lunch box, Carine transformed lunch preparation into craft time “without the glitter and glue clean up,” she adds.
As a result of her research and work, Carine ended up with an entire kit with all the accessories that parents need to demystify the lunch box and transform a chore into fun. This & That Lunch Kit contains
- 3 collapsible silicone containers that pack the perfect portions for kids, according to age. The containers go in the oven, the microwave, the fridge and freezer. They are shock-resistant yet easy for kids to open.
- Kid-friendly recipe cards to get kids involved in the kitchen. The recipes are specifically designed to meet kids’ needs and make the exact quantities to fit in the containers. Examples of recipes include mini corn souffle, carrot and lentil quiches, etc.
- Detachable shopping cards to never miss an ingredient at the store and educate kids about seasonal vegetables.
- Stickers to decorate the containers and write fun messages.
- An erasable pen to customize the stickers and write on the recipes.
“Unlike typical store-bought lunches and deli meat sandwiches that often have unhealthy levels of sodium and sugar, This & That lunch recipes follow USDA and French nutritional guidelines to bring the necessary amounts of vegetables, fruits, protein, dairy, and grains. This & That Lunch containers’ collapsible features are also perfect to make age-appropriate portions,” says Lellu.
Fast-forward to 2016, Carine is launching This & That Lunch Kit by Lunch Squares, now available on Kickstarter. This & That is a little nod to the mother-daughter connection reminding her of the history of her project. With the $20,000 that This & That Lunch Kit raises, Carine will be able to get her minimum order for production and get her This & That Lunch Kit in the hands of thousands of families to help make their lives a little easier, raising strong and more focused children who are eager to help in the kitchen and who learn to make good food choices to last them a lifetime.