Slim Pickings

These lunch ladies cater to parents with a distaste for what their kids are eating in school.



Samantha Gotlib (left) and Debbie Blacher provide lunches daily to about 240 Central Florida students.

Photo by Tina Russell

Samantha Gotlib and Debbie Blacher don’t buy the claims that schools serve healthy lunches–and they say other parents shouldn’t either.

Take a look at the lunch menus and you’ll see main courses full of carbs and fats, with an occasional green vegetable breaking up the starch-laden offerings. Give a kid the choice of a pepperoni pizza or a salad and which do you think he’ll pick?

That’s right.

Gotlib and Blacher want children to have the best of both worlds—nutrition and taste. So with that in mind, the Baldwin Park neighbors founded Wholesome Tummies three years ago.

The company now supplies organic and otherwise nutritious school lunches to children in 22 private and public schools in the Orlando area.The company delivers lunches to several Seminole County public school lunchrooms. The entrepreneurs feed at least 240 children a day, but they hope to double that number by the end of the school year. They also plan to franchise their concept elsewhere in Florida.

Tummies offers healthy versions of foods kids might actually eat, such as macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. The company’s 4 Cheese Mac & Cheese combines high-protein, high-fiber pasta with four types of cheese, with northern white beans and carrots (what corporate chef Tiffany McGhee calls her “sneaky mix” of ingredients) blended into the sauce. The Ballpark Dog is a hormone- and nitrate-free hot dog served on a whole-grain bun. For dessert, kids can have brownies made with whole wheat flour. None of the food from Wholesome Tummies contains high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors, trans fats, or nitrates.

The lunches aren’t cheap: Prices range from $4 for a preschool meal to $6.25 for a middle- or high-school lunch. (contrast, Seminole County public school lunches cost $2.25-$2.75.)

“Yes, it’s a little bit more expensive,” says Melody Giacomino, who orders lunches four days a week for her 6-year-old daughter, Grace, a student at Tuskawilla Montessori Academy in Oviedo. “But I would rather pay on the front end and eat healthy than pay on the back end to fix the diseases unhealthy eating can cause.”

Gotlib, 34, and Blacher, 40, came up with the idea of making nutritional school lunches when they were frustrated with the lack of healthy options for their children attending private schools. They spent a year researching suppliers, developing recipes and testing food before opening their business, which uses a pediatric nutritionist as a consultant.

Parents sign up and choose lunches online (wholesometum
mies.com), which are then delivered to participating schools. Boxed lunches are also available for pick-up at the Let’s Eat! store in Winter Park.

“I was at this [private] school the other day and everything was brown—the whole line of food!” laments Blacher, shaking her head in disappointment. “Food is so beautiful in its natural state.”

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