As a former elementary school teacher and the mother of three children under age six, Joanna Parker has had lots of experience with picky eaters.
“It was such a struggle for me,” says the founder of Panda Plates, 34, a meal delivery service for kids. “If it was frustrating for me as a stay-at-home mom, I couldn’t imagine what it was like for working parents.”
With her entrepreneurial husband David, also 34, Parker a year ago tested her concept, named for Pandas “because they are very healthy animals and extremely maternal.” She put out a Facebook post to various parenting groups asking if people would be interested in having nutritious, kid-friendly meals delivered to their door.
“The feedback was tremendous,” she says with a laugh. “People were saying, ‘Yes, please! Cook my kids’ dinner!’”
In June, Panda Plates launched out of a catering kitchen in Edison. A team of up to eight cooks assemble Parker’s protein, grain and veggie-balanced dinners for several hundred clients from Connecticut to Virginia. The orders are delivered in an insulated box guaranteed to stay cold until 10 pm on day of delivery. Customers subscribe to the service, but can request a pause in service without penalty.
Each week subscribers can log on from any device and choose from that week’s choice of six meals, each with an average price of $9. They can order as many meals as they they need. Each entrée comes with a meal card with warming instructions.
The favorite of her own children, as well as many of her young clients, are chicken pops—panko-coated, ground chicken meatballs on a stick with apple sauce for dipping.
Another favorite choice is her pizza muffins of quinoa, sauce and cheese. “They are bite-sized and fun to pop in your mouth,” she says.
There are vegetarian options like summer bean chili with honey-corn muffins and roasted broccoli. Orders can be tailored to fit special needs, including diets sensitive to soy, egg, dairy and gluten.
A number of customers have connected with her through corporate partnerships. “They want their employees to make more of their time at home and not have to stress about getting dinner on the table,” she explains.
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