Sunday, May 09, 2010

Gourmet Prep of Houston – Healthy Food, Foster Youth and Entrepreneurship

How do you tackle the issue of foster youth aging out of the system at 18-years-of age? Nearly 60 percent of foster children reach adulthood with no family support and no marketable skills to assure employment. But, Houston-based social activists Gur and Stefanie Tsabar saw a potential solution to the problem in the ingredients of a gourmet meal.

Their venture, Gourmet Prep Meals launches this month in Houston, promising fresh, ready-to-cook recipe kits to busy individuals and families who want to eat healthy and cook more at home. Imagine placing an order online and receiving all the fresh ingredients for a complete meal – pre-prepped, chopped and measured, and packaged up with cooking instructions – delivered directly to your home or office. Menu items include such chef-inspired entrees as Poached Salmon with Lemon Pesto Orzo and Roasted Asparagus, Herb Chicken with Whole Wheat Couscous and a Vegetable Medley, and Portabella Mushrooms Stuffed with Quinoa and Veggies. And, you cook it all at home in under 30 minutes.
Beyond the convenience, fresh flavor and good taste, this is food with a purpose. One hundred percent of profits are dedicated to training young adults - who are aging out of the foster care system - in entrepreneurship.
“The single problem we were looking to solve is that the majority of these kids get dumped into adulthood and don’t survive the workforce,” says Gur. “We wanted to figure out a way to build a community around this vulnerable population and raise awareness about this issue.”
The commercial kitchen which serves as home-base for Gourmet Prep Meals is located in the same building as an organization responsible for transitioning Houston's foster youth into adulthood. Cohorts of 15 youth at a time will work in the kitchen preparing the food and learning sales, marketing and customer service skills – in effect, a total experience in entrepreneurship. It’s a hands-on experience, versus a classroom. The youth work regular hours, get paid, and learn from nurturing staff.
These are real jobs with real-life consequences. Gur and Stefanie are working with a variety of social agencies in Houston that will provide support and refer youth to the program. Chef Molly Graham served as a culinary consultant on development of the menu.
“The commercial problem we want to solve,” says Gur, “is that busy parents are desperate to cook more and put healthy food on the table.”
But he says it’s not a typical not-for-profit approach. He calls Gourmet Prep Meals a “social entrepreneurial enterprise.” The commercial business serves as the mechanism to train the youth. The sale of the meal kits sustains the social mission and the youth benefit in the process, not only gaining valuable skills for future employment, but a total immersion in how a start-up works.
Good food and healthy eating are integral to the business model and the experience the youth will have.
“There is a specific reason we chose a culinary experience,” says Gur. “There’s probably no more unique skill than to be able to nourish yourself. At a most basic level, we’re going to train these youth how to cook meals for themselves and introduce them to food. That’s a key skill to becoming a self-sustaining adult.”

Gourmet Prep Meals will fill a need for time-pressured families, but Gur says the food will involve families in the issue of foster youth.

“It’s a story in a box,” he says of the meal kit. “We give people good food, they read the recipe card and get an introduction to the program. The customer learns about healthy food and the needs of foster youth. The food brings people into the conversation.”

He is optimistic about the launch of Gourmet Prep Meals and its impact on foster youth in Houston. “People want to see this group succeed,” Gur says. “There’s a lot of energy we’re hoping to tap for and on behalf of these kids.”

©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

This is the kind of story that warms my heart. I wish them all the best with this inspiring new venture.

tasteofbeirut said...

These folks are so wonderful! I am so impressed! And thank you for showcasing their work and dedication! My! I don't think I could have done it! I wish it could be replicated all over the world as well as the US.

lostpastremembered said...

This is so impressive... I do hope it goes well for them. Jamie Oliver is having so much success with his restaurant run by kids who had no chance in life till now.. and they are thriving. Fingers crossed..thanks for sharing!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I am so impressed with Gur and Stefanie and their program. Gourmet Prep Meals has to be the best idea to come along for kids (and busy people who want to eat healthy but don't have time) in a long time.

Houston is an ideal place for this. It's such a vibrant and alive city. I lived there years ago. Texans have a real "can do " spirit and I hope this fantastic program will spread throughout the country.

It would also be ideal for my two pampered and spoiled nephews who can't seem to get a correct start into life in their twenties. An awfully lot of kids today need a North star to get them on their way to adulthood. I say cheers to Gur and Stefanie and I wish them all the best.

Mary said...

What a unique and thoughtful approach to business. I hope their venture is enormously successful and the idea is adopted elsewhere. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Velva said...

This is just the kind of blog post that warms my heart and makes my Mother's Day.
The "aging out" of foster youth is often a forgotten group. This organization is something that needs to catch-on all over the U.S..

Thank you for sharing this with your readers.

Fresh Local and Best said...

This is a very neat program that is thoughtful on many fronts. I'm impressed that someone is taking care to mentor a group of kids that truly need good role models to help transition themselves to becoming responsible adults. Bravo!

Julia said...

What a great business model! I love that they provide useful life skills while helping those in need.

veron said...

I hope this venture succeeds, it is so inspiring. Love that there is a moment towards healthy eating.

Sophie said...

This is indeed so impressive!!

Thanks for sharing this with us!

Many greets from rainy Brussels!

Gourmet Prep said...

Thank you all for your very kind words of encouragement; and thank you, TWB, for this beautifully written introduction to the world. We are tremendously grateful for the moral support, especially now as we're preparing to launch...Stefanie and Gur