New Hope Meal Delivery Company Named Outstanding Disability Employer
New Hope-based Healthy for Life Meals is not only growing, it’s celebrating a special honor. The meal delivery company received the 2021 Outstanding Disability Employer Award from the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation.
Healthy for Life Meals employs four team members with disabilities through the nonprofit Partnership Resources, Inc. The company has hired employees with special needs for nearly 20 years.
“It’s truly an honor. It’s hard for me personally to accept some recognition when all we are trying to do is the right thing in life,” said Jim Keegan, director of operations and owner of Healthy for Life Meals.
Jenett Wukawitz is among the special team members. She has worked at Healthy for Life Meals for 18 years. When asked what the favorite part of her job was, she didn’t hesitate to say “everything.”
“They love to come to work. They have such energy when they come. You can see they love, just enjoy working,” said Lena McDowall, who coaches the four team members.
‘The industry has changed immensely’
Healthy for Life Meals was a pioneer in the meal prep and delivery industry when it first started 20 years ago, offering a variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That includes both vegetarian and traditional options that can get delivered right to your home.
With 28 workers on staff, the operation churns out as many as 10,000 meals a week from its large cooking facility. The numbers are impressive: It can produce 140 gallons of pasta or rice at one time. It can steam roughly 50 pounds of vegetables in under 10-12 minutes. And it can bake about 1,000 chicken breasts in under 25 minutes.
But in recent years there have been many new entrants.
“The industry has changed immensely in the last five years with all the new entrants in the market,” said Stephanie Keegan, CEO and founder of Healthy for Life Meals.
However, she says that has opened doors even more for the New Hope company.
Just in the last few years, Healthy for Life Meals has expanded its shipping to a total of six Midwest states. And it has more than 35 retail partners in the Twin Cities where customers can pick up its meals.
“There’s just a huge need for people to have an easier access to fresh ingredients, someone else to do the work for you,” said Keegan. “Because it does, it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of prepping and planning.”
A tasty and healthy challenge
Jim Keegan keeps the cooking operations rolling. A background in the Navy and experience in the food business since age 14 helps. He also comes up with many of the recipes.
“I’ll go from doing Asian food to doing South American food to maybe trying more European. Or I’ll even dabble into African food because I just like exploring.”
Keegan says the hard part is making everything tasty and healthy. Which is why many hours are spent testing out recipes and getting feedback from staff.
“It’s fun because every day is sort of a new challenge, which I like,” he said.