Our initial question was: How do we make healthy food attractive and accessible to more people?

We were drawn to successful restaurants in the farm-to-table, fast-casual, and vegetarian categories. As such, we initially compared the different restaurant options through visits. We decided to investigate how we could restaurants that make healthy foods more accessible. In our interview with the COO of Dig Inn, Irene, we discussed many approaches to corporate social responsibility.

Irene helped us realize that lowering costs of food was not the only way to reach lower-income families. While Dig Inn is not currently targeting consumers from lower socioeconomic groups, their business model does include other programming that is related to this goal. For example, they have an intensive culinary training program for every employee (which helps people develop their skills) and company policy is that all employees can eat free and family and friends receive discounts (which they hope will encourage healthy eating habits).

While we originally set out to build a business model that would lower costs of food (via Ugly Greens and other food innovation); focus on outreach in schools; sustain healthy eating via social media encouragement (easy recipes); pay employees livable wages and encourage their healthy lifestyles via culinary training; we ultimately realized that restaurants were not the most effective way to target lower-income families. We looked at reports that show how low-income families make the majority of their meals.

Given that lower-income families are often making meals quickly, perhaps between jobs, we wanted to focus on these meals, which become the majority of meals in a week. This is where we have chosen to focus our attention. Most of these adults will not have time during the week to learn about healthy cooking, so we have instead chosen to focus on their children.

Our proposed solution is called lunchbox. We hope that this early education intervention will instill good habits and health awareness. Our goal is to help students realize that small changes can make a difference.lunchbox would be funded through a grant or other government funding. To cut down costs, we’d take advantage of food a cafeteria already has. The program would be piloted in a single school, providing a “green” meal once a week.

As part of the process, students would pick out their meal for that day, and during the lunch hour, learn exactly how that food was prepared. They would also learn why that particular food item is a healthier option aka a Smart Swap e.g. switching to whole grain, less meat, more vegetables, sustainable seafood, etc. We would make a poster for each small change in the cafeteria so that students can learn about the change in nutritional value in a subtle way while they’re getting food.

Students will be able to go around to cooking stations to watch their food be prepared, help prepare it, and then enjoy the healthy and delicious food they just made. In addition, lunchbox will partner with the cafeteria to work on providing healthier options. Research shows that even small adjustments and additions of healthy foods go a tremendous way in improving overall health. We hope that by making healthy foods more accessible by showing the students how easy it is to prepare healthy, delicious meals., when given opportunities to make healthy decisions, they will.