Interview: Well Fed Meals, Lexington

It’s late and you’re tired. It’s been a long day at work, followed up by ballet practice and a soccer game. The sun is setting and your children are bemoaning their empty stomachs from the back of the van. To make matters worse, the cupboards are empty at home because you haven’t had a chance to get to the grocery this week.Then you see it—a shining beacon of hope and cheap food—a pair of golden arches lighting the rapidly darkening sky. McDonald’s. You know better. You’ve read the reports. This is a bad choice, but once again a certain evil villain wins out in the battle for your food dollar: convenience.

Lexington entrepreneur Rachel Crabtree envisions something different for you. Her new business venture, Well Fed Meals, could provide your family with a convenient alternative: freshly prepared, locally sourced, nutritional meals that are never frozen. Maybe it’s crazy, but Rachel would like to see a Well Fed Meals across the street from every McDonald’s in America so that every family has the option to make a better choice.

Rachel was a child of an earlier iteration of the back-to-the-land movement. As a youngster, her family moved to Casey County, Kentucky and worked to raise their own food and live self-reliantly. Rachel didn’t really get into it, and when she went away to college at the University of Kentucky, her farming roots were quickly forgotten.

Things changed when several of Rachel’s friends were diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time. Suddenly, the desire to eat healthy became an obsession. She had to know why cancer had become an epidemic sweeping the nation. What was the culprit?

It’s hard to be sure, but it seems like it all comes back to that same villain: convenience. We’ve traded the pure joy and nutritional value of real food for whatever is convenient and it is killing us. Rachel began a quest to eat the healthiest food she could find… which led her back home.

Rachel Crabtree, founder of Well Fed Meals

“People are not getting whole food, whole nutrition, and it’s killing us. My goal with Well Fed is to change that. I say ‘healthy food’ which can mean low-fat, low-carb, sugar-free, whereas I mean whole food. Can you tell me what ingredients are in that? There should be no more than four to five ingredients and you should be able to name them,” said Rachel.

Looking back on her rural childhood, she realized that she was born for just this task of providing people with real food. Back-to-the-land could be the cure for what ails us after all. By connecting with nearby farms to eat fresh, local, and unprocessed, we can improve our health. (Not to mention revitalizing our local economy.)

Farmers Market Pasta

Rachel realizes that there are challenges for restaurants who want to buy locally. “We have a huge resource in this state with our farmers. We have so much potential to help our farmers and grow our economy if we can educate people. But right now, it’s hard for restaurants to source locally. What I do is call the honey people in Midway, I drive to Weisenberger to get my flour, call Clark Family Farms when I need eggs, I have to get ahold of Cliff [from Marksbury Farms] to place my meat order… so it’s a very tedious process. Whereas restaurants can call Sysco and they will drop off everything they need. So we’ve got to get it to where that’s a reality for local foods.”

Despite the challenges, Rachel is determined to grow her business. Right now, customers can place orders on her website and choose pick up or delivery two days a week. (I’ve been salivating over the Thai lamb burgers made with Marksbury lamb or the cilantro lime chicken salad—both look divine!) After a year and a half in business, things have grown enough to add an employee. (One of Rachel’s other hopes for the business is to be able to employ those that are usually unemployable—such as those dealing with homelessness or a criminal record.)

When Rachel and I were able to sit down and have lunch together, I was wildly impressed with her zeal. Her passion for educating consumers about where their food comes from and providing a healthy alternative is what keeps her moving forward and working around the clock to make things happen. This isn’t a business that someone cooked up because “local” and “sustainable” has become a trendy word. This is a business created by someone who genuinely hopes to create healthier options for today’s busy consumers.

Thai Lamb Burger

Well Fed Meals is located in Lexington at 1301 Winchester Road, in the Eastland Shopping Center, just inside New Circle Rd. (Behind S&S Tire and two doors down from Robert’s Health Food Store.) Be sure to give Rachel a call or place an order online. Rachel just redesigned her website, so you can use the code GrandOpening to get 10% off your order during the month of August!

{All photos courtesy Well Fed Meals}

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