HURRICANE, W.Va. — At one time, Kirk and Mandy Curry were poster parents for being too busy to bother with proper nutrition for themselves and their offspring. They had just had their first child, who seemed to suffer from the family’s eating habits.
“We ate horribly,” said Mandy Curry, who, like her husband, is 38 years old. “It was your typical microwave chicken nuggets and microwave mac ’n’ cheese. Everything was microwavable at that point in time. We never shopped in the produce section. We didn’t know how to shop. So everything was canned, everything was microwaved. He was sick all the time. We were just starving for energy.”
All that has changed and they are now sharing their new skills and knowledge with other parents.
The Currys are the co-founders of Healthy Kids Inc., a subscription website (healthykidsinc.com) that offers parents on the go a complete meal-planning solutions to healthier family eating.
“This is our third year for Healthy Kids Inc.,” Mandy Curry said.
“We spent an entire year just building the meal planner itself. And the meal planner has over 250 dinner recipes. So, we actually filmed a chef making every single recipe. We actually brought a chef into our home for an entire year and filmed him making everything. He made every recipe on our site.
“That’s the brilliant thing of it. We wanted to make sure that it didn’t matter what your cooking skill level was, that anybody could come in with these recipes and whip it up. So, now our members just simply have to pull up their computer, their iPad, and just cook right alongside the chef.”
At their home, they have set up a small studio. Kirk handles the cameras while Mandy hosts additional weekly YouTube cooking videos.
Their site now has several hundred subscribers, who pay either two installments of $57 or a one-time subscription of $97.
The lifetime membership earns parents five new dinner meals introduced each week, a nutritional analysis for each meal, a chef’s video tutorial for each meal, a weekly video showing parents how to prep meals, a “Picky Eaters” e-book, access to a members-only forum and other video tips.
The site’s chef is Joe Crockett. In 2009, Crockett worked alongside celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on his Emmy Award-winning television series “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” when it came to film a series of shows in Huntington.
After the shows concluded, Crockett was given the position as chef at the kitchen Oliver established in downtown Huntington, where he remained until 2011. Crockett is now chef for 21 at the Frederick, a restaurant at the Frederick Hotel in Huntington, and teaches classes at Mountwest Culinary School.
The site’s team also includes Sarah Sturgill, a registered dietitian who graduated from Marshall University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in dietetics. She spent three years as a families and health agent for the West Virginia University Extension Service and is also a specialist in child and adolescent weight management.
It was after their second boy was born that “we started to come to our senses,” Mandy said. “And then we started that progression to really get aggressive with figuring it all out. How can we as two busy working parents pull off this off? As we learned, we wanted to teach and share it with others.”
Their boys are now 8 and 6 and sometimes appear in the cooking videos the couple create. The videos range from how to make homemade pasta sauce and whole-wheat tortillas to concocting watermelon slushies and ice pops using coconut water, a summer treat much lower in sugar than regular Popsicles and slushies.
Kirk works full-time on Healthy Kids Inc., while Mandy also holds down a day job while spending a lot of time on the site’s offerings.
“[It’s] pretty close to full-time for me too,” she said. “I still work corporate by day. I’m in banking by day and I have been for 20 years. I think that makes it really nice because I truly relate to the challenges that parents have because I’m doing it and living it myself. And so, you know, you get home from the end of that workday and you’re exhausted. Sometimes you just want whatever’s quick and easy.”
She spends a lot of time in the field, talking to parents, doing cooking classes and marketing the site. Right now, the couple is focused on getting the word out and expanding in West Virginia and then extending Healthy Kids Inc. from there.
“It certainly is time-consuming. But we’re also just getting started. Our goal is to start to work a lot more with the schools and with more parents across the state. We are very focused on wanting to make a difference in West Virginia first. That’s priority to us.
“The grand plan is to be able to really branch out and to make a difference across the state. We want to help other parents who are struggling with the same thing. So getting the word out is our game plan for the next couple of years actually.
They hope to work with schools, initially in Cabell, Kanawha and Putnam counties.
“That’s what we’d love to do. We’d love to be able to partner. The schools are doing so much to focus on healthier school lunches. I want to help with the parents. I want to help to bridge that gap so everybody’s working on it. And it’s not just the schools or it’s not just the parents. I want to make sure we’re all focusing on healthy eating.”
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-3017 or follow @wvville on Twitter.