Local Business Spotlight sat down for an interview with Barb Yeskey and Bill Lumadue, owners of The Food Doctor, a prepackaged healthy food company in Harrisburg, PA.
LBS: Can you give us an overview of The Food Doctor, and what types of products and services you provide?
Barb: We are a prepackaged healthy foods company. Our foods are all gluten free, low sodium, low sugar, and diabetic safe. They are portion controlled, precooked for convenience and ready to go. All our entrees are homemade, we make everything from scratch.
The meals are vacuum packed and sealed so you can pull them out of the freezer and put them in the microwave, or in boiling water for a few minutes and you have a full meal. Also, the plastic we seal it in is PbA free, so there is no harmful chemicals in it.
LBS: So, you make all the foods personally?
Bill: Yes we make all the food at Visaggio’s Restaurant. I’m part owner of the restaurant and I ‘m also one of the chefs. Our kitchen is certified and meets all of the states standards. It’s not made out of a house or private residence.
LBS: Ok, so it’s important to note that your food is made in a certified kitchen, correct?
Bill: Yes, the more we do this the more we find out there is a lot of people cooking in their homes for other people and that’s really unsafe especially if people have special dietary restrictions or allergies. We have a lot of rules and regulation that we have to follow for the restaurant and I understand why, because people can get sick and they can sue you.
LBS: Do you prepare entrees and deserts?
Bill: We really do not get into deserts, we do protein shakes and bars. We try to stick to healthy alternatives. The foods are more or less for lunch and dinner. We do have some breakfast items and we are expanding that. .
LBS: What type of fare are your entrees?
Barb: It’s a mixed type of fare. We have main entrees for lunch and dinner. We have about 16 different menu items like salmon, turkey, beef, tilapia and chicken. All the food that is made could be served in the restaurant, because of the quality and taste. Most of it’s protein based on size and portion. We follow the FDA standards on portions.
LBS: Who are your current customers?
Bill: Our clientele varies: individuals that want to lose weight, food allergy issues, dietary restrictions, healthy eaters, individuals preparing for competitions, individuals that need to eat a clean diet. Or individuals that are busy and have little time to cook. We have a lot of truck drivers because the food is healthy and low sodium. They said it’s impossible to get anything healthy on the road, that they can eat, that’s not going to loaded with sodium and preservatives.
LBS: You mentioned earlier that it’s a good quality of food you use. Can you explain that more?
Bill: In my beef entrees I use, fillet, Fillet Mignon. So you’re not getting something that’s a cheap quality. We use all high quality low fat meats. The salmon I get in is a whole salmon, it’s not prepackaged. When I get it in I trim it out and cook it off. Same with the chicken, when the chicken comes in I clean it and cook it.
All the food I prepare is the same food that we actually use at the restaurant, we just prepare it differently. We also package it, so it can be refrigerated or frozen so it is convenient.
It all comes down to time and convenience. I guess that’s why McDonald’s and Wendy’s will always be in business, they are convenient.
LBS: In a sense, you are providing that time and convenience, right?
Bill: Yes, almost. You just can’t drive into a Food Doctor on the Carlisle Pike and drive back out, but we do try to make it convenient. We do deliver the food and it just needs reheated.
LBS: So, for a family that is busy with working, and kids in Little League, your products would work out great for that quick meal, correct?
Bill: Yes, a few minutes in the microwave and your done. Children really like the food especially if you don’t tell them that it is healthy. My
niece and nephew are both very particular, and they eat it. I just don’t tell them how healthy it is.
LBS: How long has The Food Doctor been in business?
Bill: The Food Doctor has only been in business since last September (2011). That’s when we started doing it together and we formalized everything. I’ve been doing this for the gym’s for about four years on a small scale.
I’ve also been doing it for people who have kids in college. They ship the food off to them because it’s convenient and they know that they getting a quality meal with nutritional value. Customers buy 20-30 pieces and give it to their kid to take back to college with them. Most of the cafeterias at the schools served a very poor quality of food.
LBS: What makes the Food Doctor unique?
Bill: In our area, no one is doing anything like this. In larger cities they have companies that will make you fresh food daily or cooks that come in to your home. We offer the best of both worlds homemade healthy food with no hassle of grocery shopping or having someone in your home.
But the nice part about our food is you have the convenience of eating it when you want to eat it. It’s frozen and you can pull it out and stick it in the microwave when you want to.
Barb: I think one other thing that makes our food unique is the single serving portions. Everything is portion controlled, we as Americans overeat. We don’t understand portion control. We like bigger, supersize, grandee, anything that makes it sound like we are getting a lot for our money, without understanding the repercussions to our bodies.
Bill: Our food tastes good. I’ve bought healthy prepackaged foods in grocery stores. It’s more expensive and it doesn’t taste good.
LBS: Are you from the Harrisburg area?
Bill: Yes, my family has been here since 1972.
LBS: Can you tell us about your story, and why you started a healthy food business?
Bill: Mostly to help people, giving them another choice of foods to eat. Most people who are trying to lose weight don’t eat enough because they’ve been told by television that you have to do this, and that, it’s all a gimmick. Individuals just have to eat enough of the right foods and be educated on what they are eating.
We are helping people lose weight the proper way, eating food that’s good for your body. When I take two truck drivers who sitting driving 12 hours a day and help them lose weight by providing the with healthy food to eat; that makes me feel good.
At one point, I was lifting weights all the time and I would watch what I’d eat, of course, I’d have to watch the portions. So, I just started eating this way myself and expanded it. I have to watch my cholesterol, so I can’t eat a lot of bad carbohydrates.
At that time I was going to the gym and working out with a trainer. The woman who owned the gym wanted to know if I could make food for her clients.
That’s kind of how the whole thing kicked off. She just wanted me to make quality food for her that was affordable. That’s another thing, healthy food doesn’t have to be ridiculously priced either it can be affordable.
LBS: What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Barb: People really don’t understand nutrition. They don’t understand portion control, and they think when they go to the grocery store and they
are buying, say for instance, a lean cuisine that they are eating healthy. They are not looking at all the additives, preservatives, and all the other things that they put into the prepacked meals which makes the food unhealthy for them. The only thing they are really getting with that is portion control.
Also, I don’t think they understand how this food they’re putting in their body affects them long term, throughout their life. If they are not eating a good diet they could later get diabetes, heart disease, food allergies, obesity or have some kind of auto-immune problem. I just don’t think the American people are educated enough to realize all of these things, or they don’t care enough to do something about it.
We see people in the gym all the time, when we do events, they think just because they are working out they can eat whatever they want. They go eat 5 slices of pizza and then go to Dairy Queen, just because they are working out in the gym. They don’t understand everything else that goes along with it.
LBS: Are there any interesting things that have happened that you would like to share?
Barb: I think some of the interesting things that have happened are with some of the people who are eating our food on a regular basis. They may have high blood pressure, diabetes, or whatever else it might be, and since they’ve been eating our food religiously they have been able to go off some of their medications.
Bill: Just like the truck drivers I was telling you about. The husband is about 40 years old, and he was having a problem with his legs swelling. They figured out it was the food he eats, with all the sodium in it, and the fact that he was sitting all the time for his job.
Since he took all the other food out of his diet, and replaced it with mine, he has gone off the medication and no longer has that problem. He now eats healthy food on a regular basis.
I have a customer from the gym that was super busy. Her and her husband were both working about 80 hours per week. They ate my food for a month, thirty days of eating my food 3 or 4 times a day, and she dropped 20 pounds in one month. The interesting thing about it is her Thyroid Gland did not work. The Thyroid Gland is the master gland that tells everything else what to do. She had it partially removed, so it was not at full function.
She had been going to the gym and working with a trainer for about 7 years. I actually thought she just started going maybe a year before that, until I found out it was 7 years. So, working out really has nothing to do with it, it’s what you eat. If people would spend more time on what they put in their mouth, they could spend less time at the gym.
LBS: What kind of trends are you noticing in the healthy food industry that might affect your customers, or your local community?
BARB: Society is becoming a society of convenience. Everybody wants instant gratification. So we have to figure out ways to be there for their instant gratifications. It’s very easy to pull into a McDonald’s, Wendy’s or a Sonic to just grab something quick and go because everybody’s so busy.
Back when our parents were younger the mothers were home cooking and cleaning. Now in this society both parents are working and the kids are doing sports and activities. So, it easier for them to just go through a drive-thru or pick-up something that’s convenient.
Bill: And today I don’t think people like to or take the time to cook.
Barb: Everybody used to have gardens in their back yard where they could get fresh fruits and vegetables. Now, you rarely see that. I don’t think I know one single person I associate with who has a garden. There was a time when everyone had a garden.
LBS: If someone is looking to purchase your products, what advice can you give to help them make the best buying decision?
Barb: The one thing I can say is that we have not had any complaints where someone didn’t like the taste of our food. I think that’s the biggest thing you have to overcome when making healthy foods is as soon as people hear the word healthy they think there is no flavor, or no taste. We’ve had people contact us and say wow, we really like your food, it tastes great. People just need to try it.
Bill: Barb has been at over 9 events in the month of May where she brought the food, hot food, the same way we make it. She hands out samples of the food so that we can get the word out and get people to realize that healthy can taste good!
All our food is gluten free, & when necessary we can customize the ingredients to accommodate a customer. For example, we have a customer that has a harsh egg allergy. So, as I’m preparing the meatballs I will take the amount needed to fill her order out before mixing in the eggs and make that order separately.
We have another that is allergic to peppers, so we do our best to customize the orders to suit one’s individual needs when possible. Since it’s just me doing the cooking, as I don’t have a team of helpers, I know that what I prepare is what the customer is getting.
LBS: You don’t actually have a storefront to sell your products, is that correct?
Bill: Yes that’s right. We don’t have a storefront for these products, but I do have a restaurant, Vissagio’s that’s been around for many years. Once people in this area realize the food is being made by Vissagio’s that helps a lot. They know the quality and taste.
We have a supply of food at the restaurant so it is always ready to go when an order is received. We keep our menu’s there as well. We have a table in the lobby of the restaurant with all our information. We think most people must be interested because we put out a lot of menus out and most of the time they are gone, the customers are definitely taking them.
Barb: We give people options. They can pick up their order at the restaurant, we can deliver it for a small delivery fee, or we can ship it anywhere in the US. We do have a website with a store on it so people can purchase the food on line as well.
LBS: Are there any current events or promotions taking place at The Food Doctor?
Barb: We put promotions on the website, I try to do it bi-weekly with certain packages that people can buy at a discount. I put some trial packages on there according to what the most popular item that people are buying.
As far a current events, Bill & I try to do an event at least once a week. We go to some of the local gyms such as Gold’s and LA Fitness. , I’ve been to some of the Hershey Medical Center events, we work with the Holy Spirit Diabetes Crew, several health and wellness centers, nutritionist and a variety of other businesses. We are just trying to get in front of people and get them to try the food.
LBS: So how can a potential customer learn more about The Food Doctor?
Barb: Visit our website at www.thefooddr.net, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or they can call me 717-319-8273.
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