The lunch lady

Bucks mom Kimberly Danley-McNulty is promoting healthy eating in kids through The Pack’d Lunch

Here’s the dish: Yardley’s Kimberly Danley-McNulty (pictured with her kids Everett and Larkin) recently founded The Pack’d Lunch, which works to promote healthy eating habits in local youth. Source: Jesson Geipel

Yardley resident Kimberly Danley-McNulty, who hails from a family of farm-to-table cooks, always worked to instill healthy eating habits in her two kids – Larkin (5) and Everett (3). But when her children began attending school/daycare and summer camp, gaining most of their daily nutrition from the not-so-nutritious lunches provided, Danley-McNulty noticed a major behavioral shift.

“Their tantrums would be a little bit stronger, their focus would be significantly less. They would either be bouncing off the walls or flat out on the floor. It’s scientific evidence that what we feed our bodies, whether we’re 2 or 60, has a direct effect on mood and focus and growth,” she explained.

After chatting with her circle of mom friends and discovering they were all struggling with identical issues, Danley-McNulty decided to take action.

Last month, with the help of a holistic health counselor, she celebrated the soft launch of The Pack’d Lunch. Each morning, Danley-McNulty makes homemade, healthy, organic lunches in a commercial-grade kitchen and hand-delivers them to Bucks County students’ cubbies.

And the best part? Lunches are tailored for the pickiest of eaters, with each meal containing a toy and educational card about how even the toughest heroes enjoy vegetables. Danley-McNulty reflected on one boy who now loves broccoli – he learned it’s the Hulk’s favorite food, and the reason why he’s green.

An example of a recently crafted meal included a vegetable spring roll with a sweet marmalade dipping sauce, organic blackberries and strawberries and a small chocolate confetti pretzel. Another was comprised of a protein pancake with a cranberry dipping sauce, nut-free granola, Greek yogurt and a sparkle cookie.

“Kids eat with their eyes first, so all the meals we make are really colorful. I like a well-rounded meal, so we’ll have proteins and greens, but we’ll also have something sweet and yummy in the end because I think an appreciation for all of the good food is important,” Danley-McNulty said.

Parents can register for The Pack’d Lunch online, where they’ll be asked several questions about their child’s eating habits (what they do and don’t like, what they should be eating more of). Danley-McNulty then works one-on-one with the parents, offering weekly tracking/reporting.

“We try to tackle it as a team to make sure they’re getting the full nutrition that they need. They’re not just eating the noodles or the veggie spring rolls. I want the kids to have a complete nutritional experience,” she said.

According to Danley-McNulty, the first thing most parents do when they pick their child up from school is peek in the lunchbox to see what was (or wasn’t) eaten. So far, her clients are reporting back empty lunch boxes.

“Everybody wants to see how their kids are eating, and I do the same thing so I know how important that is. I get crazy passionate about it because I feel like, we’ve sent our kids off for the day from 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, and they’re being required to focus and read and all these things. If we know that in the middle of that span, they had a really great meal, I could jump for joy. I’m being trusted with people’s children, their health and feeding them. I’m really grateful for that.”

Every Sunday, Danley-McNulty personally visits multiple grocery stores to acquire only the freshest ingredients for that week’s meals.

“If you have this chance to change a kid’s pallette, it’s worth the extra time,” she said. “It’s a big passion project for me, for sure. If you told me 10 years ago that I’d be doing this, I’m not sure I would’ve believed it. But after you have kids, everything changes.”

Danley-McNulty has built The Pack’d Lunch one step at a time, beginning with acquiring her food safety manager license. Now, she boasts countless titles, including self-taught website designer, chef and delivery person.

“I feel so deeply passionate about this that it doesn’t feel like work,” she said. “Do what you love and it doesn’t feel like work.”

The Pack’d Lunch serves students at area private schools, though Danley-McNulty aspires to one day expand to public schools. She also hopes to form a staff of stay-at-home moms who are interested in helping with the cooking and delivery process.

“My end goal, really, is to make healthy eating accessible for everyone. The pallette, we can build it if we start young,” she said. “The system for feeding kids at schools and camps is kind of broken. To not give them the appropriate fuel and nutrition that they need, I think it’s a disservice to them and it really sets them up for failure in terms of feeling even bigger emotions.” ••

Visit thepackdlunch.com for pricing information, sibling discounts and more. The Pack’d Lunch is also on Facebook and Instagram @thepackdlunch.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com