Every weeknight, while the rest of the city sleeps, the kitchen crew at Delicious Nutritious bustles around an industrial-sized kitchen in West Oakland. They’re getting an early start on the day, cooking the nutrient-rich, low fat breakfasts and lunches that the company delivers to participating businesses around the East Bay and Oakland.
Oaklander Storn White founded Delicious Nutritious in mid-2010, with a feel-good (and taste-good) mission in mind. White’s ambition was to build a business that fed people energy-filled meals at prices they could afford. While opening a restaurant or lunch counter was the more traditional option, White knew he’d reach a wider group of people if he tried to deliver to people at their places of work. He renovated an old elementary school kitchen near the intersection of 34th and Peralta Streets with the help of a grant, hired a modest four-person team, and got to work.
Storn forms relationships with companies, and then sells to their employees on an individual basis. Each employee places their orders for breakfast, lunch, or both, online, and White’s delivery person drops off the meals in their office fridges before they arrive at work in the morning. Currently, White has 12 client companies in Oakland, including Alta Bats Medical Center, Ask.com and Jamba Juice. He serves dozens, or more, of employees at each stop every day.
“There is an economic reason behind why people eat junk food,” says the lanky, longhaired Storn, sitting in the sunny office just off the back of his pristine kitchen. “Junk calories are really cheap. They’re homogenous foods that store forever—white flour and white sugar, for example—and that’s why they’re turned into processed food. It’s 50 times as expensive to get your calories from lettuce. But part of my business is try to financially compete with those junk food sources.”
Indeed, White’s prices are competitive with the fast food options that many Oaklanders might otherwise be inclined to eat. His salads are priced around $2.50, as are the soups. In fact, the sandwiches are the most expensive item on the menu, coming in at a whopping $2.95. A large meal at McDonald’s or a Subway combo with chips and soda will run you about the same, if not more, than three courses from Delicious Nutritious. The cost to your health? Higher.
The Delicious Nutritious menu is posted online monthly, and members can choose what they want up until the day before. Each day, the a la carte menu offers four soups, four salads, and four sandwiches. There are also breakfast items, like oatmeal, and desserts, like hot apple crisp, a stewed apple and granola concoction. Diners can add extras like a small pat of butter for their oatmeal, but everything is carefully measured to ensure the food’s low fat guarantee.
On this particular day, there are items on the menu like a Southwestern chicken salad sandwich, a snap pea, pepper, quinoa and frisee salad, and one of White’s favorites, his Carrot Carrot Caliente soup. (It’s double the carrot because the base of the soup is made from carrot juice, which, he says, gives the customer more energy.) The quinoa in the salad serves the same purpose—White doesn’t want his food to simply be low-cal, he wants it to give customers an energy boost and needed vitamins. In most dishes, healthy doses of herbs and spices create layers of flavor in the place of fat and salt.
Delicious Nutritious packs up an individual bag with each customer’s name on it containing all their selections, and delivers it to their break room fridge. The Delicious Nutritious menu is calculated so precisely that in each bag, customers get a slip of paper with a per-item calorie breakdown, a Weight Watchers points count and a calculation of how many calories in each item come from fat. White knows every nutrient and calorie in every food he sells, and keeps a vast, meticulous database that allows him to crunch numbers and create recipes that contain all vitamins, fiber and nutrients our bodies need, without the fat.
White, who was an engineer in a past life, got invested in nutrition while training for a marathon a few years back. He became obsessed with what the human body thrives on, and how to get it to people. Delicious Nutritious was born of this passion, after found a set of respected guidelines to craft his food around.
“What we do is follow an eating guide that’s called Dietary Guidelines for Americans that’s put out by the Department of Health and Human Services,” he says. “It’s an overview of how you should eat nutritionally, and one of the rules says you should get less than 35 percent of your calories from fat. So we try to keep people below that amount, because we expect they’ll go out and have a cheeseburger for dinner.”
In other words, White’s hope is that if folks eat his food for two meals a day, they’ll have some flexibility with the number of calories they consume after work hours–they can eat at home or out at restaurants as they normally do, and indulge in some treats. He’s also hoping to expand his business over time, to include new clients and find investors that are willing to take a chance on a unique business model like his. One day, he says, employers might even cover the cost of his breakfasts and lunches for their employees, if they accept his argument that preventative measures like healthy diet and exercise will cut down on their health care costs overall.
“The idea behind this business is that in the US, the lion’s share of our medical funds are spent on preventable disease,” says White. “Cardiovascular, stroke, obesity, diabetes—we spend over $3 trillion a year treating those things, and we only spend $1.2 trillion on food. We spend more money on the medical consequences of bad food than food itself, and it’s mind-blowing to me.”