Red Apple Lunch
Photos by Betty Liu
Lisa Farrell’s interest in health and nutrition began as an active 8-year-old living in Winthrop. “I had a gymnastics coach who emphasized the importance of eating well,”
Farrell says. This interest in nutrition continued into her college years in Santa Barbara as Farrell studied the environment, surrounded by farmers markets selling locally sourced goods. She worked at Fresh Samantha (now Odwalla) for six years.
“This, for me, really cemented my belief that the company can be a positive link for people with food, health and the environment,” she says. Farrell continued her education in Cambridge, receiving her MBA at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and also worked in investment banking at Bar-clays and corporate strategy at PepsiCo in New York City.
While immersed in the corporate world, Farrell was always a believer in small companies and held that entrepreneurial spirit in the back of her mind. After eight years, she decided to move back to the Boston suburbs with her husband and two elementary-school-aged sons. With a passionate business plan and background in nutrition, Farrell was eager to share her concept with her hungry peers.
In fall 2015, Farrell launched a pilot program where she dropped off free lunches to a pool of friends of friends in the Cambridge and Arlington areas. She asked the parents to fill out a satisfaction survey and used the feedback to structure her menu and vision going forward. She also had two taste-testing sons at home who added to the vision. By winter, Farrell had a website ready, and by spring she rolled out lunches in the Cambridge and Arlington areas to families using Stock Pot Malden’s commercial kitchen as prep space. Farrell utilized the school summer break to brainstorm with local parents, refine the logo design, website and process going forward. Farrell’s number one focus is on quality.
“I want to get Boston right,” she says, in regards to establishing trust with customers and pace.
By October 2016, Farrell was moving full speed with Red Apple Lunch. As founder and CEO, the three-word name popped into her head naturally. “The name means so much: health, local food and education all in one while staying simple and accessible,” she says.
Farrell created a straightforward yet creative menu with flexibility for customers. The user-friendly website allows customers to easily select their children’s lunches for the week. For each main lunch item, parents can choose the fruit, vegetable and treat with an additional option for a snack or drink. Prices for each lunch start at $6.00 for children ages 3–7, $7.00 for ages 8–10, and $7.50 for ages 11 and up. For $1.50 more, you can add a drink or snack pack to complete the meal.
Next, parents select the specific days of the week and timeframe for when they would like their lunches delivered to their homes. Parents can also specify whether their children have any allergies or preferences (dairy-free, wheat-free, vegan, etc.). Farrell and her team—two cooks, a “social media guru” and a driver—fine-tune every detail including sizing portions dependent on the child’s age; using cute, compostable and recyclable packaging items that are personalized with each child’s name; and offering customers the option to tailor their lunch selections directly on the website.
The mix of year-round and seasonal lunch items is creative and attracts all types of eaters. The Red Apple Lunch team focuses primarily on finger foods that are fun and easy to eat. The fruits and vegetables come from regional and organic producers, and local artisan bakers make the bread daily. Farrell and her team roast meats, bake treats and blend smoothies in-house with organic eggs, milk and other fresh, locally sourced products. The names of each menu item are catchy and feature many local vendors. For example, a common “Sammie” option is nitrite-free Genoa salami and Cabot cheddar on crustless, fresh baked Iggy’s bread. A popular “Dippers” combination is vanilla-spice sunflower seed butter from Boston’s 88 Acres with house-made whole wheat or country white bread. For the breakfast-at-lunch lover, the “A Lil’ Different” meal is pumpkin whole grain pancakes with cinnamon, nutmeg, Vermont maple syrup and chicken breakfast sausage. The most popular item at the moment is the “Oodles of Noodles”: buckwheat soba noodles tossed with organic roasted chicken, shredded local carrots and peas. The overall enjoyment and intrigue for these creative lunch options is evident with the growing number of open-minded and curious kid clients.
The Red Apple Lunch team’s emphasis on featuring local vendors in their menu options is also coupled with their focus on connecting with and giving back to the community. For every one lunch box sold, Red Apple Lunch gives one healthy snack pack to a child in need at Bread of Life in Malden, a faith-based ministry serving communities north of Boston. Farrell’s team is committed to this cause, also partnering with the Greater Boston Food Bank. Farrell believes “a person with limited food should receive quality food.”
With a happy, loyal and growing customer base, Farrell is always brainstorming and eager to update and enhance the client experience. While reading the Winter 2017 issue of Edible Boston, Farrell was inspired by the recipe for the Monkfish Sliders with Herbed Cream and instantly wondered, “Would kids eat cold fish sticks?” Perhaps she had a new seasonal offering in the works. Farrell’s mind is constantly swirling with new ideas, and the budding Greater Boston local food community nurtures this potential.
This story appeared in the Spring 2017 issue.