Nutritious. Delicious. Simplicious: Vancouver Startup Launches Creative Cure for Lunchbox Blues.
Elemeno disrupts mid-day meal doldrums, delivering inclusive, plant-based lunches for kids.
VANCOUVER, February 9, 2021— Elemeno, a startup that delivers healthy, hassle-free, plant-based kids’ lunches direct to Vancouver parents, officially launched this week. Simply visit the website and select either a main and one side dish for $10.95 or a main and two sides for $13.95. The freshly-made lunches are delivered to homes on Tuesday evenings across Vancouver, with a $3 delivery charge added to the total. While the service operates as a 4-week rolling subscription, parents can adjust their meal selection each week and even cancel after the first two weeks of deliveries and not incur any additional charges.
The first plant-based kids meal service, Elemeno is Vancouverite Ryan McKee’s brainchild. McKee is the former Brand Director of Mountain Equipment Co-Op and a recent graduate from the Executive MBA program at SFU’s Beedie School of Business. In class his idea for elemeno took shape, earning second place among nearly 30 other startup concepts in the school’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize 2020. Balancing all this with raising two young daughters alongside a partner who provides behavioural intervention for families, he experienced no shortage of morning mayhem getting everyone ready for the day ahead.
After surveying over 200 parents through the summer, McKee learned that healthy meals were a priority for parents when making meals themselves. Still, domestic life demands had them seeking various meal services - sometimes at the expense of nutrition - for support. Adhering to social distancing mandates and sticking to personal bubbles further amplifies families’ challenges that rely on extended family or wider community support. As a result, 50% of parents signed up for a school lunch program, 39.5% ordered food delivery and 14.5% subscribed to a meal kit service in a given month.
With Elaine Cheng’s support, owner of Food Connections consultancy, McKee refined his concept further to focus on plant-based meals made with real ingredients.
“Through the research we conducted with parents, I was pleased to learn that plant-based meals are often incorporated throughout the week, whether it’s a veggie stir fry or lentil curry for dinner, or an avocado roll at lunch,” says McKee.
“Ryan brought a passion for using natural ingredients in the recipes,’ added Cheng, “and so we focused on favourite items that kids ask for at lunch, but with our special approach.”
Cheng also introduced McKee to Just Catering, a non-profit organization that employs and pays a living wage to folks who face barriers to traditional employment. The social enterprise has been instrumental in testing and refining the launch menu and will produce elemeno’s first meals to customers.
Angie Knott, a Vancouver parent who was part of a 20-family test group in December, noted that although their family was not plant-based, "They thought the food was great. We (as adults) were especially skeptical of the macaroni cups, but no one noticed a thing."
"The kids enjoyed bringing it to school, liked the novelty of it, and told their friends and teachers,” says Caroline Ohlander, a Vancouver mom and school administrator.
With meal names like Macadoodles, Banzo Wrap, Zelda Bombs and Berried Treasure - where kids will literally find a treat hidden under a pile of fresh berries – elemeno’s goal is to deliver fun and fresh food items that also win over kids and their oft-fickle palates. The menu is also inclusive, which means meals are made without the use of common allergens, such as nuts, dairy, soy and wheat.
“Food options for children with dietary restrictions or sensitivities should not be relegated to the last item on a menu or a watered-down version of a meal. Some establishments make an item dairy-free by simply removing the cheese - but give no further thought to how that changes the texture, consistency, saltiness and umami taste that cheese provides,’ said McKee. “If your child has a food sensitivity, instead of 90% of a menu being off-limits, elemeno will flip that outdated model on its head, meaning 90% of items can be enjoyed.”
Founded in 2021 by Ryan McKee, elemeno provides home delivery of plant-based meals for children’s lunches. The pre-ordered service, delivered on Tuesday evenings, is a valuable new tool in a busy family’s arsenal, providing a much-needed resource for those feeling tapped out. Find out more about elemeno at elemeno.co.
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