WASHINGTON - No matter how busy life gets, Heather Stouffer stands by a strict philosophy when it comes time to feeding her children.
"When you're in a pinch for something convenient, it's not the time to sacrifice nutrition for your kids," Stouffer says. "Everything really counts."
The 39-year-old Alexandria, Va., resident is the founder and chief executive officer of Mom Made Foods, a USDA-certified organic line of kid-friendly frozen foods.
Stouffer, who is a mom of two children under the age of 10, started Mom Made Foods in 2006 after being worn down from a challenge most busy parents face: putting healthy meals on the table, day in and day out.
"I still have that challenge, and I and millions of parents share that challenge," says Stouffer, who, seven years ago decided to test her business idea for wholesome, preservative-free foods behind a card table at the Del Ray Farmers Market.
Since then, Mom Made Foods has transformed into a growing line of products that is sold in a few thousand grocery stores, nationwide, such as Whole Foods. Now, Stouffer hopes to take her marketing up a notch.
Stouffer is one of several small business owners competing in a contest that could land Mom Made Foods a commercial during the Super Bowl. She entered her company in the "Small Business, Big Game" contest from Intuit.
"We've got national distribution, we're competing against the largest food brands for frozen space in grocery retailers, and I can't think of anything that would be better for us to win at this time, other than national publicity during the Super Bowl," Stouffer says.
After making it through the first round of cuts, Stouffer and her team realized they needed a video component to advance. So she called a local production company, gathered eight kids and made a video entry in less than a week.
Stouffer says she will find out "any day now" if Mom Made Foods will advance to the next round of finalists.
"Regardless it's a win, win. We've got a great video. It was fun to film it and we'll certainly use it for many other things," she says.
Stouffer says she hears that her healthy approach to kid favorite foods -- like meatballs and mac-and-cheese -- does not deter kids from her product.
"We've gotten many parents whose kids don't care at all for anything green, who say, ‘I don't know what magic is in your cheesy mac, but my kids will gobble up those peas,'" says Stouffer, who uses organic ingredients and antibiotic-free meats in her low-sodium foods.
And she even finds a way to sneak vegetables into most of her recipes. Rather than using traditional filler ingredients, she utilizes frozen vegetable purees. In the mac-and-cheese, Stouffer uses sweet potato and butternut squash puree to add a creamy texture and to cut down on the fat.
"At the end of the day, what we're doing is taking kid-favorite recipes and making them a whole lot healthier," she says.
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