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Rebecca Sholiton and Nate Cooper  Photo by Lisa Predko

The Healthier Lunchables

Wise Apple

The idea:Nutritious lunches for kids, delivered to your door

The aha moment:Friends routinely complained to Rebecca Sholiton, then a student at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, that the way their kids ate tormented them. That was especially true for working moms, whose busy schedules often force them to rely on prepackaged meals. “One friend said she wanted to quit her job, and when we got down to the root of why, it was all about her kids’ food habits,” says Sholiton, 33. “She felt like she was failing as a mom.”

Since then:Sholiton and Nate Cooper, an angel investor who helped California-based Lyfe Kitchen scale nationally, started Wise Apple in 2016. Their Blue Apron and Lunchables hybrid ensures midday meals are healthy and easy. Parents subscribe to weekly packages that include five, eight, or 12 boxed lunches and range in price from $35 to $78. They choose from a rotating menu of mostly organic and locally sourced foods (all peanut-free), such as turkey meatballs with apple slices and mozzarella fries or fish tacos with a mango-pineapple salad. (Even the brownies are healthy: They’re made with sweet potatoes.) “You don’t have to cringe when you’re giving this to your kids,” Cooper says. The service is now expanding from the website-only subscription model to single prepackaged lunches in grocery stores, starting with the small suburban chain Sunset Foods. Tech website Chicago Inno named Wise Apple a startup to watch in 2017. But Sholiton and Cooper are most interested in the feedback they get from the tiniest critics. For instance, students at Bubbles Academy in Bucktown put potential new menu items through a blind taste test. Another child’s review, as relayed by the mother: “Your ranch dressing is amazing—I could drink it!”

The idea:Nutritious lunches for kids, delivered to your door

The aha moment:Friends routinely complained to Rebecca Sholiton, then a student at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, that the way their kids ate tormented them. That was especially true for working moms, whose busy schedules often force them to rely on prepackaged meals. “One friend said she wanted to quit her job, and when we got down to the root of why, it was all about her kids’ food habits,” says Sholiton, 33. “She felt like she was failing as a mom.”

Since then:Sholiton and Nate Cooper, an angel investor who helped California-based Lyfe Kitchen scale nationally, started Wise Apple in 2016. Their Blue Apron and Lunchables hybrid ensures midday meals are healthy and easy. Parents subscribe to weekly packages that include five, eight, or 12 boxed lunches and range in price from $35 to $78. They choose from a rotating menu of mostly organic and locally sourced foods (all peanut-free), such as turkey meatballs with apple slices and mozzarella fries or fish tacos with a mango-pineapple salad. (Even the brownies are healthy: They’re made with sweet potatoes.) “You don’t have to cringe when you’re giving this to your kids,” Cooper says. The service is now expanding from the website-only subscription model to single prepackaged lunches in grocery stores, starting with the small suburban chain Sunset Foods. Tech website Chicago Inno named Wise Apple a startup to watch in 2017. But Sholiton and Cooper are most interested in the feedback they get from the tiniest critics. For instance, students at Bubbles Academy in Bucktown put potential new menu items through a blind taste test. Another child’s review, as relayed by the mother: “Your ranch dressing is amazing—I could drink it!”

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