Morris Community High School graduate Lori Anderson-Lynes has always been passionate about eating and living healthy. After her children came along – now ages 5, 3 and 1 – she passed on her healthy eating habits to them.
But she’s always wanted to pass on her knowledge to others, as well.
“I am so passionate about helping people make healthy choices,” she said.
Anderson-Lynes left her corporate career in 2009. As an entrepreneur, she wanted to find a niche that would allow her to keep using her experiences from corporate America and work from home so she could be with her children.
It wasn’t long before a group of former college friends from Illinois State University, also now mothers, contacted her to join them in their start-up company GrowYourGiggle.com.
It was exactly the niche Anderson-Lynes was seeking.
“I was in a transition period. Was I going back to Corporate America or should I do something else,” she said. “This is something I can do from home and work with my friends.”
It doesn’t matter that her college friends/co-workers are spread out all over the U.S. — in California, North Carolina and Colorado.
The Internet-based wellness company geared toward kids is filling a need none other has filled before. When a child and parent log onto GrowYourGiggle.com, they are introduced to the website’s mascot, Vivi LeDish. Through games and interaction, Vivi teaches children all about healthy foods, portion control and moderation. All the information aligns with First Lady Michelle Obama’s My Plate program.
The free website contains over 500 recipes with five ingredients or fewer that children can make, with some help from an adult. Every day there is a food of the day and recipes to go along with it.
Children log on daily and keep track of the healthy foods they eat. They can learn about measuring their food for portion control and serving sizes. Fun food facts and games make it easy and fun to do.
“We gear it toward the parents and caregivers, anyone that has children 3 to 8 years. They go through this simple program that teaches them about different foods,” said Anderson-Lynes.
“I go through it with my kids on a daily basis. They have picked-up so much from it. It’s something so simple that teaches kids about the foods they eat.”
GrowYourGiggle.com has earned a great following – they average 25,000 views per month – and is drawing a lot of attention from other companies, organizations and even celebrities.
Vivi LeDish is now featured in the “How Cool Is That?” section on Rachael Ray’s non-profit website yum-o.org, which “empowers kids and their families to develop healthy relationships with food and cooking.”
The website includes recipe contributions from celebrity chefs Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa), Guy Fieri, Karen LeBillion (author of “French Kids Eat Everything”) and Laura Fuentes (founder of MOMables.com).
GrowYourGiggle.Com has been included on a list of 10 wellness education programs for Michelle Obama; is featured by Partners in Pediatrics, Macaroni Kid, Chicago Foodies, Wall Street Journal Market Watch, Reuters, Yahoo Finance, Health Care Communication and Healthy Cells; and is collaborating on promotions with Chicago Shedd Aquarium, Chicago Children’s Museum, Hearts at Home, Moms Together, and the Kids Table in Chicago.
“We are excited about these programs,” Anderson-Lynes said.
But the turn-key company has more work to do to help fight childhood obesity and one goal is to get the program into schools.
It’s flexible enough to fit into a teacher’s lesson plan without taking up much time. It not only includes a daily dose of wellness, but uses sight words, repetition, alphabetization, illustrations and activities, among others, Anderson-Lynes said.
Two schools are already piloting the daily program, one is in Colorado and the other is Anderson-Lynes’ son’s preschool. It’s also being considered as part of the curriculum in the Chicago Public School system; they hope to hear something in early April.
“It’s free to utilize in the classroom and because it’s via the Internet, it eliminates costly materials,” she said.
Anderson-Lynes is excited about the company and the difference it can make in the lives and health of American children.
“We want to bring things back to basics. We want to shape healthy habits instead of breaking unhealthy ones,” Anderson-Lynes said.
“We are a group of moms who got together and are paying it forward.”