Three years ago, Amy Siler was a frustrated parent making lunches for her youngest daughter, Jenna, the picky eater in the family.
"It drove me crazy when I'd say, ‘Why aren't you eating anything?' and she'd just say, ‘I don't like it,' " Siler says. "So I started packing her lunches with all this organic food — vegetables, fruits, all that yummy stuff — and my husband was like, ‘Wow, you're missing your calling. That's what you should be doing.' " Inspired, Siler and her husband, Michael, decided to start Lunchboxes 4 Life (lunchboxes4life.com) to provide healthy lunches to families who want an alternative to school-made or home-packed meals for their children. The Hanover County-based company, which started operating in May, delivers lunches to schools in Henrico and Hanover counties and the city of Richmond. A typical meal might be a pita filled with chicken, white cheddar cheese, shredded napa cabbage and a sun-dried-tomato dressing, accompanied by celery sticks and a banana.
Sisters Lisa Granger and Lynn Tauchen had a similar idea. So the two created Green Monkey (eatgreenmonkey.com). Granger is a chef who owned the former Zed Café on Lakeside Avenue, and Tauchen helps with finances and logistics. "As parents, you want your kids to have the best nutrition you can give them," Granger says. "But then there's this calling to want all kids to have access to really great food."
Like Lunchboxes 4 Life, the Henrico-based business provides fresh, healthy school lunches. But most of Green Monkey's clients are private schools, some of which don't have lunch programs. What started in November 2010 with about eight lunches a day quickly increased to between 100 and 125 lunches prepared and delivered daily. On a typical day, students might be offered a curried-chicken or curried-egg salad over mixed greens with a mini, whole-grain apple muffin and seasonal fruit.
Lunchboxes 4 Life and Green Monkey have online ordering systems and a variety of options. Lunch prices range from $4 to $7.50. Both companies also offer classes about food and are working to create school gardens. "My daughter is weird," Siler says. "She won't eat a cucumber. But if she grows it and picks it off the vine, she'll eat it because she knows what it is, where it comes from and watched it grow."