[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]
YOUNGSTOWN — Prepped Wellness, a personalized health and wellness meal preparation service, is working hard to meet local food needs as Ohio continues to take precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The health and wellness company recently partnered with Preferred IT Solutions in New Castle to create a community response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, raising more than $1,000 so far to feed the community.
"Food is everything. Food is love, food is fuel. So it’s really nice to be able to come together and help people,” said Gino West, owner of Prepped Wellness who noted the efforts will feed about 25 kids and 10 elderly couples this week. On Prepped Wellness’ website, customers can donate any monetary amount or choose to “sponsor a neighbor” and feed a specific household. There is even an option to receive assistance.
The company has also implemented new protocols to ensure the health and safety of its customers and staff during the global pandemic. West said he is only allowing staff in the Prepped Wellness kitchen and has chosen to enforce no contact food delivery to customers to avoid close contact.
"You have to hold these high standards as it is, so now at this point with this pandemic going on it's at an even higher level. We already wore gloves, but now I’m having [staff] change them in intervals, like every 10 minutes. Masks are hard to find but I try to have everyone wear a mask. I have Purell on deck,” West said.
"My customers need to sustain their health and wellness,” he said.
Prepped Wellness began in 2017 with in-home shopping, prepping and cooking meals for clients. Now, the company has expanded to hundreds of customers in Columbiana, Lawrence, Mahoning, Mercer and Trumbull counties.
West graduated from Youngstown State University’s dietetics program in 2015, and his previously unhealthy lifestyle ultimately influenced his career choice.
West said he and his sister struggled with childhood obesity. In 2007 he was 350 pounds and studying jazz at Youngstown State University.
His sister was approved for bariatric surgery. That was when West decided to change his lifestyle in 2009, describing it as “an internal snap that some people have to have to actually make a lifestyle change.”
"There’s like that competitive sibling thing … so then I was like, ‘You know what, I can do this on my own,’” he said. “From that point on I didn’t look back and I lost 140 pounds in a year and a half.”
After graduation, West saw a need for a business that helped clients start and maintain a cost-effective healthy way of living that didn’t include fad diets. West’s culinary background includes a mixture of restaurant experience, classroom training in food science as well as Italian family recipes.
The Prepped Wellness menu changes every two weeks, but some of West’s favorite recipes are chicken cacciatore, Italian stuffed peppers with homemade sauce, chipotle bowls, Pad Thai and drunken noodle bowls.
"I’m able to take an unhealthy recipe and really alter it to where it is clean and still holds the same flavor,” West said.
Prepped Wellness packages include:
- “The All-Inclusive 5 Day” contains five breakfasts, five salads, 10 fruits and 10 entrees for $99
- “The Entrées Only” contains ten entrees for $80
- “The 5-5-5-5” contains five breakfasts, five salads, five fruit and five entrées for $60
- “The Lunchie Munchie” containing five entrees for $40
All Prepped Wellness recipes are made dairy- and gluten-free, but customers can ask for additional customizations based on food preferences or allergies. Vegan options are available.
Customers can pick up their orders weekly at 907 Elm St. or choose door delivery for a $5 fee.
Prepped Wellness’ goal is to give customers the opportunity to experience a “full circle of health.”
"You’re getting convenience, sustainability, you’re eating better, you’re feeling better. ... There's just so much involved. It is an absolute lifestyle change, but without all the work,” West said.