Coronavirus: This kids food startup is ensuring underprivileged children don't go hungry amid lockdown
It’s almost been a month since the nationwide lockdown to help arrest the spread of coronavirus was announced. While the lockdown seemed to have helped in ensuring social distancing, on the flip side, it has led to a loss of livelihood for thousands of daily wage labourers and low-income households.
As a result, several startups and initiative are trying their best to provide them with daily essentials and make sure they don’t die of hunger.
One of them is kids food and nutrition startupand sCoolMeal, which has partnered with 's Hope, not Hunger campaign to provide nutritious, hygienic meals to underprivileged children in Bengaluru.
The Bengaluru-based startup joined hands with foodtech unicorn Swiggy last week and since then, it has already served more than 30,000 meals. In times as difficult and uncertain as these, the startup has also retained a majority of its staff – most of whom are migrant workers from Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and more.
“After the lockdown was announced, there was a surge of migrant workers wanting to go back home. However, we explained to our employees that it would be in their best interest to stay back given that we ensured them work and safety,” says Harshvardhan, Co-founder, Lil’ Goodness and scoolmeal.
The meals are cooked at an FSSAI-certified central kitchen and follow all safety precautions. “In the beginning of the lockdown, we faced some logistical issues in the procurement of raw material and delivery – but since tying up with Swiggy, we have been able to feed many hungry mouths in this difficult time,” he adds.
Getting kids to eat better
Lil’ Goodness was launched in 2018 as a baked food venture, but soon, the co-founders realised the market for nutritious meals for children was unexplored and in demand.
“During our research, we found that the market for preservative-free convenience snacking options for kids was quite big. Late last year, they launched three products to meet this demand – beetroot crackers, carrot crackers and a guava smoothie,” says Co-founder Pariksha Rao.
The crackers are baked, oil-free, and low in sodium, unlike other snacks available in the market. It is made with real vegetables, which take care of nutrition concerns too, she adds.
Packed with love and nutrition
The startup works with a lot of mothers for its packaged food brand, trying out recipes for healthy snacks and discussing nutritional values. “That is when we realised that today in most families, both parents are working, leaving moms with little or no time to invest in packing a wholesome meal for kids,” says Harshvardhan.
In September 2019, Lil’ Goodness acquired sCoolmeal – a meal subscription service that provides healthy and nutritious vegetarian lunches to children by partnering with schools.
“Fresh food is a pain point for working mothers. With this acquisition, we had access to 37 schools and daycare centres to provide meals,” adds Harshvardhan.
Parents can locate their children’s school on the app and subscribe for a breakfast-lunch-snack combo or individual meals on a daily, monthly, or annual basis. The co-founders say the menu is built keeping in mind that children don't like repetitive food.
Typically, a meal consists of rotis, sabzi, dal, and rice with some cheat days in between where they serve noodles or ‘pizza paratha’. They also ensure that the lunch menu consists of a good serving of pulses, green vegetables, and beans.
“We don't repeat anything on the menu at least for five weeks to ensure that kids get a variety of good, nutritious food,” says Pariksha.
All of the meals are cooked at the company's centralised, FSSAI and ISO-certified kitchen and transported in their own fleet of sanitised vehicles.
Onwards and upwards
The startup claims it clocks 1,800 orders a day with 75 percent of them being repeat orders. It recently started a video feed of the food being prepared, which parents can watch to ensure that the food is made hygienically and at safe temperatures.
Today, Lil’ Goodness and sCoolmeal provides meals to students across 55 schools and daycare centres across Bengaluru.
However, Harshvardhan says there’s still a long way to go.
He adds, “The market size for the kids food market in India, considering the top eight cities, is $3 billion. The market opportunity in the city of Bengaluru alone is $250 million for the two businesses combined. There are more than 550 schools with over seven lakh students and 2,000+ daycare centres with over two lakh children, who fit into our target audience.”