July 4th, 2016
When RFRK’s founder, Lulu Cohen-Farnell, discovered she was going to be featured as the OptiMYz Magazine “fitrepreneur”, she was ecstatic!
OptiMYz isn’t your average magazine, it’s actually the largest Canadian-owned female health, fitness and lifestyle media. This awesome female-powered organization assures readers that they are on the right path and shows them how to achieve their dreams and they keep it REAL by focusing on nutrition, fitness, health, mind and lifestyle!
Check out Lulu’s feature:
The mission of Real Food for Real Kids (RFRK) to provide nutrient dense meals began when Lulu Cohen-Farnell’s son entered a childcare centre where processed food was the norm. Growing up in France where she accompanied her grandparents to farmers’ markets and was in the kitchen at a young age, Cohen-Farnell has a deep connection with food.
GMO-laden, mono-flavour meals were not going to cut it, so she made her son’s meals everyday from scratch. She realized the need for affordable, healthy meals for children, and short time later, she and her husband remortgaged their house and poured all of their savings into RFRK.
As co-founder and Food Innovation Officer of RFRK, she and her husband David are betting their future on future generations. Their company provides affordable, healthy lunches and snacks free from GMOs, artificial flavouring and chemical preservatives to over 16,000 kids across the Greater Toronto Area. She calls RFRK a “social food enterprise” aimed at disrupting and rebuilding the broken food system for kids, making it “sustainable, affordable and deliciousable.” Cohen-Farnell is making the change she wants to see in the world-sustainably.
Today, RFRK provides lunches and snacks to daycare centres, camps and elementary schools at a cost of of $4.89-$5.50 per meal. One out of 20 kids eats for free and in 2009 RFRK launched the Real Food Forward Program, providing over 25,000 free meals to kids and raising enough money to feed entire schools for a year. They also sponsor staff lunches, offering a discounted price ($4.50 instead of $5.25) to encourage teachers to be healthy-eating role models.
Recognized in Chatelaine magazine and profitguide.com’s top female entrepreneurs listing, RFRK had revenue between $SM and $10M in 2015. In December of that year, they moved in to a new 32,000 sq. ft. production space. They’re growing a strong business alongside strong kids.
Cohen-Farnell’s philosophy of health is intergenerational, a longterm investment that begins pre-conception. Beyond the direct nutrient exchange between mother and baby, research shows that children inherit the flavour preferences of their parents in utero. Moreover, lifelong eating habits form in childhood based on experience, whether good or bad. “Kids create a story in their psyche where a certain food is associated with a negative outcome, and it’s really hard to reverse that,” says Cohen-Farnell.
Pleasure and variety lie at the heart of RFRK’s mission. Exposing children to a wide variety of flavours and making it an exciting experience encourages kids to be adventurous eaters, and to pass on the tradition. This is a long-term vision. “To me the pleasure and the art are very much part of food,” Cohen-Farnell says. An amateur painter, she thinks about the dinner table like a painting and tries to include a rainbow of colour at every meal. “This idea of pleasure is confused by pleasure related to sweet and treats and that kind of stuff,” she says of North American eating habits.
Satisfying curiosity, an abundant natural desire in children, is a rare pleasure. Engaging a child’s curiosity around food through smell, touch, taste and observation helps create lasting, positive impressions. Cohen-Farnell suggests engaging children-and yourself-with every sense to fully embrace the adventure of food and cooking.
She also suggests getting kids to ask questions of farmers and butchers, or task them to pick out five of the best apples. They learn about the world and get empowered by each new skill they gain and piece of information they gather. Eating an unripe persimmon is like chewing on carpet, but a ripe one tastes of the sun.
“When I say my business is an extension of my life-it is,” says Cohen-Farnell. She is responsible for creating RFRK’s menus, something that comes naturally to a woman who routinely creates four to five dishes a night for dinner at home. Seaweed salad, grilled vegetables, chickpea stew, tempeh salad and various homemade salsa, pesto and sauces are common. A friend told her recently she “jams with food” like a jazz musician. “I’m an intuitive cook,” she says. “I don’t follow recipes. I invent recipes all the time and I love it.”
Every morning, Cohen-Farnell makes time for the gym. Weightlifting and yoga are practices at once strengthening, meditative and creative for her. She’s gone through the gamut of exercise regimes, from running to spinning, but injury and tightness lead her to bodybuilding, which satisfies her need for physical exercise and complements her entrepreneurial spirit.
She sees a trainer once a week to assess form, but otherwise Cohen-Farnell is a voracious reader who designs her own weightlifting programs. “Seeing an impact is what drives me,” she says. “Whether it’s the actions I take at work or in the gym, I don’t want to do something without seeing results. I’m not going to go and run forever every single day if I don’t see a result.”
Cohen-Farnell employs a strict freedom in the way she lives her life and conducts her work. Habits are key to her success and, while it’s hard to create new ones, she believes it can be done at any age. Whether you’re developing new eating, exercise or work habits. Her advice to others is simple: “Choose a few things that you want to do well and do them extremely well,” she says. Know yourself and plan to succeed. If you want to improve your health, start with one thing like giving up caffeine, but acknowledge the fact that you’ll probably be grumpy and unfocused for a few weeks. Do your research. Plan to drink fresh lemon juice in the morning to ease headaches and perk you up a bit. “In the end you’ll be happier because you’ve achieved beautiful things and that encourages you to build on these beautiful things you’ve built.”
Click here to read the article online!