School food reform and meal delivery services are two ways that activists and businesses are trying to improve people’s food choices. Meghan Carreau and Alexandra Payne decided to merge the two approaches when they pitched TuckrBox, a farm-to-lunchbox meal delivery service, to the App Idea Awards. In May 2016, they won the US$70,000 grand prize to develop TuckrBox and have been working all summer to prepare for a fall 2016 launch.
With subscription-based TuckrBox, children in the New York City area will have the opportunity to build their own weekly lunch menus via an app, while parents customize dietary preferences and allergies. All meals are designed by expert chefs and nutritionists and are delivered to children’s doors in the mornings before school. Each nutritious meal comes with a main course and two sides; for each lunch purchased, TuckrBox will give a lunch to a student in an underprivileged area.
Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Meghan Carreau, TuckrBox’s co-founder, about the inspiration for TuckrBox, how it works, and her hopes for its impact and future expansion.
Food Tank (FT): Your background is in art, design, and marketing. What inspired you to pursue TuckrBox, a project that focuses on improving children’s eating habits and encouraging them to make healthier choices? How has this prior experience, particularly in marketing, benefited you in starting TuckrBox?
Meghan Carreau (MC): I studied marketing and advertising design at Savannah College of Art and Design, and then I worked as an Art Director and Product Designer in ad agencies for Fortune 500 brands for six years.
During my childhood, I struggled with health problems caused by poor eating habits and consuming the typical American diet. Then, in my teens, I discovered that I have a gluten allergy. Suddenly, I became hyper-aware of the flaws in our food system, and I felt I lacked proper food education to feed myself well as an adult. I obsessively researched this problem, reading Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, and watched food documentaries. The more I discovered, the more I wanted to use my design and marketing talents to effect positive change for kids. I thought, what if kids could have autonomy in choosing their school lunch? What if we could teach kids, through food and technology, healthy habits that could last a lifetime?
In my career as an Art Director and Designer, I flourished when I was able to use my entrepreneurial spirit. I loved working on new business pitches and problem-solving using design methodology first. My parents joke that I was born a marketer. I had my first job when I was 13 selling merchandise at Gillette Stadium during the Patriots NFL games, and I was always a top salesperson. I crafted pitches even then and figured out how to make a lot of tips. All of these skills are, of course, extremely useful for a food tech founder. From designing the TuckrBox app from the ground up to crafting and designing our pitch decks, public speaking, and developing a character/mascot for TuckrBox—these skills save time, money, and resources, and have helped steer the vision for this company.
FT: What sets you apart from other meal delivery services, which are already quite prolific in the market?
MC: TuckrBox is the first kid-centric meal delivery; we put kids in the driver’s seat and make it fun both on the app and in the physical product! TuckrBox solves the problem busy parents face with school lunch. We found that busy parents do not have the bandwidth to build nutritious, fun, inspired meals day in and day out and turn to convenient options—whether in school or the grocery aisle—that lack the nutritional needs growing kids deserve.
FT: I know you hope to start meal delivery this fall. What is the current status of the project? Could you describe your day-to-day priorities?
MC: Currently, we are working on a tight schedule to finish up our investor pitch deck for our pre-seed round, while in the midst of running an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to fund our beta/soft launch this fall. We are also working on the last phase of our app development with ROKO Labs, which we funded by winning the App Idea Awards this spring. All this, combined with recruiting and interviewing for our chef and cook team and planning for menu development, means we are busier than ever.
FT: Can you describe the logistics of how TuckrBox will work once started? In what cities will it first be available? Will you incorporate any nutrition education? Can you describe a typical meal?
MC: Being an early stage startup, we prefer not to divulge too much about our logistics now, but I can say we have identified key market neighborhoods in New York City for our launch. TuckrBox will be delivered fresh and straight to the child’s doorstep in time for school.
Fun nutrition education will be incorporated in every part of the product from the TuckrBox app to our packaging and the design of the meals themselves. A typical meal contains a healthy main and two yummy sides. What makes our meals different, too, is that creative chefs and nutritionists carefully craft each recipe. You can expect more than crackers or cut veggies.
FT: TuckrBox will also utilize a "buy lunch, give lunch" model to serve children in underprivileged areas. Could you describe this component of TuckrBox? Why do you think this is so important to include?
MC: Good food is a human right. At TuckrBox, our goal is to make the biggest impact possible and to provide the food and knowledge to affect the most children. With our "buy lunch, give lunch" model, we can help create a better food future through farm and food education programs and free TuckrBox lunches for children in low access areas. We know that this education and access is key in creating a healthy, informed future generation of adults.
FT: Where do you see the program, and yourself, in five years? How will you achieve this goal?
MC: In five years, we expect TuckrBox to be in five major U.S. cities. Our plan will balance the food and tech sides of our business while growing new markets with a kid-centric, content-first strategy. We will achieve this goal because we are a young, smart, ambitious, female-led team of powerhouse strategic thinkers with a lot of momentum—and the world is begging TuckrBox to change school lunch.