Learn more about our exciting new, WIC™-approved 2-Pack Baby Food Bowls from my fellow Co-Founder Jennifer Garner!
The last decade serving parents and children in rural poverty of the United States has taught me a few fundamental truths: Every mother loves her baby just as much as I love mine. No matter her background or circumstances – all mothers look at their newborn child and make a quiet promise: I’m going to do everything in my power to do right by you.
Another truth: the playing field in this country is anything but level. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you can’t afford boots. We are a country that believes in the self-made man, but there is such a disparity in opportunity, in education and in nutrition for our families – some kids don’t have a shot unless we all work harder to create equitable opportunity and access.
I think about when my kids were 4 years old – precocious, able to do things – play on a hilarious soccer team, hit a ball off a tee, follow directions, identify some letters, count, reason, drive you nuts. Talk talk talk talk.
If you were raising your kids below the poverty line in beautiful rural America or in so many cities throughout the country – where the word gap is real, where there are no Mommy & Me, no libraries, no teams, no preschools – and no money to buy gas to get you to them even if they did exist – your wonderful 4 year-old would be developmentally 18 months behind. If at 4, you are cognitively, socially, emotionally only 2 and a half, when are you going to catch up? Where will you be when you start kindergarten? Behind and unlikely to ever thrive in school.
A similar case can be made for nutrition. Think of how carefully you nursed, how faithfully you pumped, how you poured over the ingredients on the back of the formula canister. You pureed baby food or looked for organic because, as you had promised day one – you were going to give your baby the best. We all know when kids have access to fresh, nutritious foods they are better prepared for a lifetime of health. Their bodies work better, their brains work better – it’s a simple fact. So when a good part of our country lives below the poverty line, and access to healthy and fresh foods isn’t an option, that is where we need to focus our energy.
When I met John Foraker in July 2017 to talk about Once Upon A Farm, I came in as a mom who saw a company solving a problem I knew well. Once Upon A Farm was making fresh-as-it-gets-without-making-it-yourself, all organic, simple fruit and veggie blend baby foods sold in the refrigerated section—where it should be! Had this option been available when I was a mom trying to work and care for my baby, pureeing food, freezing cubes, cleaning the awful machine – I would have reached for it over and over again. Hallelujah.
My meeting with John quickly turned from chatting about Once Upon a Farm as a no brainer for my mom friends and me, to thinking about the moms who would not have access. I told John about a mom in West Virginia I’d joined for a trip to the grocery store as she’d cobbled together the week’s food for her family. Some things were paid for food stamps, some she counted on a local food bank to provide, but for this mom and her baby – it was WIC™, the federally funded and state-run Women, Infants, and Children program. The baby food available was not what I had been feeding my littlest guy back in California and it drove me nuts.
A year ago at Expo West – I took John by surprise by announcing our long-term, audacious goal – to make the first farm-fresh, organic, cold-pressed WIC™ available food. We figured we were 2-3 years out, but it was the defining point of our partnership and impossible to omit from our origin story.
Nothing lights a fire like a goal dangling out there for the world to see. And I guess that’s ok.
Today, we are now WIC™ approved in Florida, Wyoming, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine and my home state of West Virginia, feeding more than 135,000 babies born into poverty. It’s been a crazy learning process and a nutty road, and we still have 46 states to go! But it’s a huge step and something that makes me very happy and proud.
How lucky am I to get to work with a palate of angels Cassandra Curtis, the devil is in the details Larry Waldman, no problem too big Ari Raz, and the man on a mission, dog with a bone, our fearless leader – John Foraker.
Thanks to these people and everyone working at our scrappy little company – we are helping keep our promise to help moms keep their promise, one meal at a time.