WEST BRATTLEBORO—Meg Donahue and Lisa Lorimer, owners of MamaSezz meal delivery service, want you to switch to a plant-based diet.
But neither are strident about it.
“We don’t want to be that person at the dinner table who points to what you’re eating and says, ‘That’ll give you cancer,’” Donahue said.
“We’re not anti-bread. We’re not anti-meat,” said Lorimer, former CEO and president of the Vermont Bread Company. She referenced MamaSezz’ motto: “Eat your fruits and veggies. Now go out and play.”
In February, Donahue and Lorimer launched MamaSezz as a plant-based meal service “for busy folks who want to eat clean, healthy foods,” says their website, www.mamasezz.com.
Customers nearly anywhere in the continental U.S. can order online either a la carte, or as a subscription service, and receive fresh, prepared meals and snacks on their doorstep. Locals can pick up MamaSezz’s items in Keene and West Brattleboro.
The only preparation required of the customer is heating the food. “Stop the chop!” was one of their business goals, Lorimer said.
Another goal, she said, was to stop “the trash-in-your-garage problem.” She pointed out that with other meal-delivery services, including meal kits where the customer still has to do all the food preparation, “you end up with all this trash” from the packaging.
“We pay for all the packaging to come back, and we reuse and recycle it,” Donahue said.
’An aligning of the stars’
The origin of MamaSezz was from “an aligning of the stars during a dramatic event,” Dohanue said.
In 2011, Donahue was admitted to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, pregnant with a sick and very premature baby. Meanwhile, in Maine, her mother, Millie, was dying of congestive heart failure. Donahue’s sister brought Millie to live in hospice care at Donahue and Lorimer’s home.
While “hyperfocused” on her new baby and her mother, Donahue began researching “who comes back from heart failure.”
“We kept looking for a solution. And when we read about the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet, and a challenge to try it for four weeks, we figured ‘let’s do this.’ After all, we could try anything for four weeks. So the whole gang jumped in — cold turkey, fully plant based,” says their website.
Millie’s health began improving, Donahue said. She could hold Annie, her new grandchild. One year later, out of hospice care, she was able to walk. “Now, seven years later, her heart is good, and she swims four times a week,” Donahue said.
Donahue said her and Lorimer’s health improved from the whole-food, plant-based diet too.
“I thought, ‘What’s going on?’” Donahue said. To find out, she enrolled in the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at eCornell, Cornell University’s online learning subsidiary.
“I was blown away,” Donahue said.
Doing their homework
She and Lorimer asked themselves, “What do we want to do with the last third of our lives? Play golf? Tennis? We wanted to make a positive impact on health, the environment, and on staff by offering a living wage. In every way, MamaSezz is a win.”
“We love research. We buried ourselves in research,” to prepare for launching MamaSezz, Donahue said. Using some of Lorimer’s vast collection of food-industry contacts, the duo found advisors — for recipes, cold chain technology, and food and packaging design — to help them create the product line.
“We work closely with a lab on food issues,” Lorimer said, which allows MamaSezz’s food to arrive fresh and nutritionally sound. “Lisa is very scientific in her cooking. Our recipes are exact,” Donahue said.
In creating the recipes for the gluten- and oil-free plant-based meals and snacks, Lorimer said, “we want familiar flavors. If we can serve it to Meg’s football-playing brothers, and our five-year-old, and they eat it, we’re okay.”
To help locals get used to a plant-based diet, Lorimer and Donahue began offering regular potluck dinners at the West Brattleboro location. All are welcome, and attendees don’t need to bring food — but if they do, it should be whole-food and plant-based.
The free events begin with Donahue introducing herself and the company, then an attendee tells their story about switching to a plant-based diet. Then, everyone eats. There’s music, hot tea, seltzer — and lots of MamaSezz food. “Our meals anchor the potlucks,” Lorimer said.
“We’re a big tent,” Lorimer said. “We want everyone to be included” in the MamaSezz community — even meat-eaters, she added.
“We just want people to eat more [plant-based foods]. Like, put our chili on your hot dog,” Donahue said. “If you try eating this way and you feel great, keep doing it.”