Mindset Meals: “Love is the most important ingredient.”

Eric Freeman grew up in a food desert. As the only parent in the household, his mother cooked meals for him and his siblings, but she often was unable to access healthy foods. By the time Freeman reached his 20s, he weighed 270 pounds and was prescribed medication for his severely high blood pressure. He also found himself in what he describes as “a dark place” mentally. A job opportunity relocated him from West Michigan to Florida, where he went to work for a friend’s culinary business. He began to learn about the relationship between nutrient-poor foods and poor health — and made a change. Today he is slim, healthy, upbeat and no longer needs medications for hypertension.

“I started to pay attention to nourishing foods as the foundation for me to live a healthier, more productive life,” Freeman says.

These new experiences with food, mental health and physical health inspired Freeman to found Mindset Meals, a start-up company that will soon provide nourishing, ready-to-eat meals to West Michigan businesses, schools and individuals experiencing food insecurity.

With help from Start Garden, SpringGR, Grow and public health professional Bree Bode, Mindset Meals was launched. Freeman is currently in talks with Cascade Engineering and Gentex about providing healthy meals to employees as part of health benefits programs. He also has the ear of Corewell Health Healthy Communities program, Henry Ford Health Jackson, and two Grand Rapids Public Schools buildings — César E. Chávez  and Sibley elementary schools, with the intent of providing healthy meals to children, their families and individuals living with chronic diseases.

“We are putting together a cohort of diverse students to come up with the menus they want, following dietary guidelines of course,” Freeman says. “However, while, in short, we are a meal prep business, our bigger emphasis is on behavioral health. We are developing behavioral health resources — skill building, relationship building, hands-on activities and workshops. The curriculum will be more advanced for adults.”
As the business rolls out, plans include funding meals for individuals who do not have access to healthy foods. They would be able to select and order meals online and pick them up at a convenient location within their ZIP code.

While the business is not yet delivering any meals, Mindset Meals has been catering them to potential clients as a marketing strategy.

“Chef Trimell Hawkins is our executive chef and creates our beautiful menus and recipes,” Freeman says.

When in full production, Freeman will source local foods as much as possible and hopes to establish relationships with local farmers.

“Love is the most important ingredient, alongside flavorful, nourishing, culturally relevant foods,” Freeman concludes. “There is a movement coming to demand more nourishing foods. We have to get boots on the ground. Nourishing foods are a human right, not a privilege.”
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