When Jennifer Bychowsky and her husband Mike were looking to open a franchise in Lake in the Hills, they considered pretty much everything. Both had spent many years in the corporate world and were looking for new opportunities.
They settled on a kids' food franchise that got its start in Orlando, Fla. Wholesome Tummies markets itself as a "healthy school solution," with more nutritious options for school lunches.
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Bychowsky said with her 5-year-old son starting kindergarten next year, getting into the school lunch business now will be a "win-win" situation -- she'll be able to provide a service to the community and help local kids eat healthy while shielding her son from traditional school lunches.
The business opened in January and serves a couple dozen meals per day to students at Trinity Oaks Christian Academy in Cary. Bychowsky hopes to expand that to 300 meals per day by next fall between new schools and family meal offerings.
The Wholesome Tummies franchise is designed to offer school lunches from on-site kitchens or for pickup as well as catering for school events. It also emphasizes nutrition education at the schools.
"We all stick to those core commitments, wanting not only to feed kids healthy meals in school but also educate them through seminars and making sure when they grow up they can make healthy decisions," Bychowsky said.
At this point Bychowsky's business operates from a kitchen in Lake in the Hills but she and her husband would be more than happy to contract with a school for in-house cooking down the line.
The family meals are an extra arm of the business outside of the standard Wholesome Tummies model. Bychowsky's chef, Cathy Saso, prepares four- or six-person meals for pickup.
As the business expands, Bychowsky hopes to hire more local people and find new local growers as suppliers.
The school lunch menu includes a list of kid favorites with a healthier twist. Chicken tenders don't have nitrates or GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and there is a gluten-free option for the breaded meat. Macaroni and cheese is made with protein-based pasta. Wheat flour instead of white flour makes brownies and chocolate chip cookies healthier. Yogurt replaces sour cream. Emulsified zucchini, broccoli and carrots sweeten marinara sauce instead of sugar.
"We have a lot of hidden secrets that we do to make it healthier," Bychowsky said, adding that her family has incorporated some of those tricks into their own cooking.
The meals are more expensive than the average school meal, which Bychowsky estimated at about $3. Regular lunches for Wholesome Tummies, which include a hot meal plus a choice of two sides, cost closer to $5 each.
But Bychowsky said the extra cost for better ingredients is worth it, saving kids from food like fried chicken patties on white buns with over-processed macaroni and cheese and canned fruit.
"Sodium levels are so high and the nutritional values are not good for the kids," Bychowsky said.
Visit wholesometummies.com for details or call (847) 366-9308.