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Delivery service sprouts up, offers nutritious eats for downtowners

Young Sprouts

Sarah Melton, founder of Young Sprouts

Many time-crunched office dwellers are at a loss when it comes to choosing lunch, says Sarah Melton, founder of Young Sprouts, a new made-to-order meal service that delivers farm-fresh food to downtown workers.

Research shows that typical corporate meal breaks aren't beneficial to overall worker productivity, especially when good nutrition is not on the menu, Melton says.

“Many people want to eat healthy, but not a lot of them have the time to make the meals the way they should be made," she says. "That’s where we come in.”

Young Sprouts' bicycle-delivered meals are an organic answer to less-than-healthy lunches that can be obstacles to better business, says Melton, who launched her company last November.
 
Melton’s venture follows a trend in corporate meal delivery, where services like LunchOwl and SowFood have work-better agendas underlying their menus. A 2011 study in Population Health Management states that poor eating habits are responsible for more than 60 percent of low productivity. In 2013, Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) reported that a nutritious lunch could raise worker efficiency by as much as 25 percent.
 
Melton and her chef prepare “nutrient-dense,” box-ready meals. Try chicken sandwiches, nori rolls, chilis and soups, all freshly prepared at the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen. The menu ranges from $4 yogurt parfaits to $9 penne pasta dishes. A summer menu will focus more on cooler, salad-leaning items.

A counselor-turned-foodie, Melton initially conceived the idea of Young Sprouts while working with ex-cons, impoverished families and other at-risk individuals. She's since hired on some of the people she counseled as delivery riders.

Melton aimed to make Young Sprouts happen mostly to “prove that there could be a viable business like this," she says, "keeping food sourced mostly local, avoiding the big box stores - that it’s all possible.”

The “healthy” theme runs throughout the operation from the uniforms worn by delivery people to the compost-friendly boxes housing the meals. Melton aims to align Young Sprouts with strict environmental standards set by the nonprofit B Lab. In addition, the company donates a portion of sales to 1% for the Planet, which directs the funds to a sustainability-oriented nonprofit of Melton's choosing.
 
The food entrepreneur's overall goal is to get all of her goods sourced from Ohio farms within a 100-mile radius. Melton made a connection with Cleveland-based Green City Growers for that very purpose.
 
The all-green image is paying off, says Melton. Young Sprouts customers are smitten with the concept and its meals, especially the chili brisket.

“Instead of having some carb-laced lunch that gets catered to your meeting, they bring these really whole, actually good-for-you meals,” says Carl Baldesare, an avid Young Spouts user and head of Keep It Local, a community organization that promotes small businesses. “It’s amazing.” 

As marketing execs and financial reps continue to rave about the nascent company's meals and mission statement, Melton remains cognizant of the reason behind the good feedback.

“I don’t think it’s well-known how connected our physical health is to our mental health,” she says. “I want to use to this business to bring this to people’s attention. And, of course, to make healthy eating easy.”

Read more articles by Mark Oprea.

Mark Oprea is a freelance writer living in Cleveland's Little Italy. He has written for Cleveland Magazine, Kent State Magazine, and other publications. More of his work can be found on his personal website.
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