Love Grown Foods: Teaching Kids About Healthy Eating

When Alex Hasulak and Maddy D’Amato decided to start their own food company in 2008, they were still undergrads at the University of Denver. Alex knew that he wanted to be an entrepreneur, and Maddy knew that she wanted to do something involving her two passions: wellness and nutrition. She also had a secret recipe in her arsenal: her mom’s granola, which she grew up eating — and which Alex loved, too. Just one year later, after tinkering with recipes and testing batches on friends and family, classmates, and even professors, they had a name — Love Grown Foods — and a product line ready for release. From that point on, Love Grown Foods spread like wildfire across supermarket shelves.

A Purpose Grown from Love

Just five years after their undergrad dream was conceived, Alex and Maddy’s granolas (and their newest products, Hot Oats, an instant oatmeal line) are now sold in over 4,500 grocery stores in the US and Canada. And as if that feat wasn’t enough, they’ve also created the PASSION campaign, which brings nutrition and health education to schools across the country. I talked with Maddy to learn more about Love Grown Foods and its inspiring work with kids.

WorldLifestyle: What makes your granola special? Where does the “love grown” come from?

Maddy D’Amato: When we started thinking about names, my only request was that love be in the name, because I truly believe that intention goes a long way, and love makes everything better. There’s a lot of love in Love Grown Foods.

WL: Was the company’s focus on health education the plan from the start, or did that grow with the company?

MD: We knew we always wanted to be more than just a company, and to be able to have a greater impact on society. The opportunity to work with schools and kids came about when we launched into Kroger stores. We purchased an RV and drove across the country going to stores, doing mommy events, doing everything we could to get out there… That’s when our passion and mission really started to evolve. We now have a huge opportunity to give back even more and to do great things. In the past two years, we’ve visited close to 5,000 students. It’s a huge undertaking and I think there’s a lot more we can do; we have a big vision for something we can implement on a bigger scale.

WL: Is there anything you’ve learned by visiting schools and teaching kids about healthy eating habits?

MD: Honestly, that’s probably been one of the greatest rewards of Love Grown Foods. We never anticipated the reward we would get emotionally and the encouragement we would get to keep doing what we’re doing. We get notes from students and you can see what they’re absorbing from these conversations.

Your eating habits start at a young age, and if you have the right tools, you’re better able to apply them for life. Our parents aren’t as educated as they could be in terms of what they should be feeding their kids, and schools don’t have the right education in place because of [inadequate] funding. They don’t have the resources to provide these kids [with proper health education]. The goal is to take it one step further — not just reaching students from an educational perspective, but working with schools to serve the students healthy, affordable foods in their cafeterias.

PASSION Evolves with the Company

When Maddy and Alex visit schools for the PASSION campaign, they teach everyone from kindergarteners to high school students about the importance of recognizable ingredients, healthy diet staples (heart-healthy fats, dietary fiber, and whole grains), and starting every day with breakfast.

“We are dedicated to reaching students and teaching them how healthy food can be delicious, while empowering them to take control of their health,” she says “As we visit schools, we are sponsoring classrooms and working with kids to show them early on that healthy food can taste really good.” Currently, Maddy and Alex are working with the Berkeley Unified School District to implement these kinds of changes in their breakfast and lunch offerings, and they hope to bring more schools onto their whole-grain bandwagon as well.

For more information about Love Grown Foods and the PASSION campaign, visit the company’s website.