reversing obesity

The Wellgro Co. aims to bring real food back into our schools

The Wellgro Co. aims to bring real food back into our schools

Austin Photo Set: shelley_wellgro_jan 2013_1
Ed and Kerri Keaton Hughey. Photo by Smilebooth
Austin Photo Set: shelley_wellgro_jan 2013_2
Ed and Kerri Keaton Hughey. Photo by Paige Newton
Austin Photo Set: shelley_wellgro_jan 2013_3
Wellgro Co. Courtesy of Wellgro Co.
Austin Photo Set: shelley_wellgro_jan 2013_1
Austin Photo Set: shelley_wellgro_jan 2013_2
Austin Photo Set: shelley_wellgro_jan 2013_3

One in every three kids in America is overweight. One-third of those who were born in 2000 or later are expected to develop diabetes, while the percentage of children and adolescents in the U.S. who are obese (17 percent) is triple what it was just a generation ago.

Grim statistics, to be sure. Junk, fast and convenience foods have sure done a number on our health.

But Ed and Kerri Keaton Hughey are looking to reverse that trend. With their new company, The Wellgro Co., and a mission to teach kids about real food, they want to reverse our childhood obesity epidemic. 

"Childhood obesity in the U.S. is a serious issue and we want to impact a movement to educate children about nutrition," says Kerri. "The idea of The Wellgro Co. was born out of our desire to do something good in the world... something that truly matters!"

She describes The Wellgro Co. as a lifestyle brand with three company initiatives: to educate, motivate and advocate. To reach this goal and reverse obesity in children by providing real — not processed — foods, the company sells carefully selected goods in their online shop. The money raised through these sales is used to put real food in schools, through organizations that offer school gardens, farm to cafeteria, and nutrition curriculum programs. 

"Our website and journal act as a resource for anyone who's interested in living a healthy, active lifestyle," Kerri adds. "We are making a difference, and having fun doing it."

The husband-and-wife team moved to Austin nine years ago, for Ed to attend grad school at the University of Texas. The move to Austin opened their eyes to the progressive food movement.

"This community is full of farmers, restaurateurs and individuals who appreciate the value of real food and work hard every day to provide it to our community," Kerri says. Yet at the same time, approximately 35 percent of kids in grades 3-12 in the AISD school system are overweight or obese.

"We see an exciting opportunity to utilize the food resources in Austin to educate school children about how to eat well, feel good, and live a life that is healthy."

When Ed received his Masters of Architecture degree from UT, he became a partner at Arbib Hughey Design. The combination of his design sensibility coupled with his strong interest in the culinary world shaped The Wellgro Co. brand. Kerri came from a 14-year background in fashion and retail and brought a passion for motivating and developing people to the venture.

"Our strengths compliment each other and have led us to be great partners in this business: We focus on commissioning good design, eating good food, motivating good people and doing real good," she says.

The Hugheys, and by extension The Wellgro Co., believe strongly in the premise that you are what you eat. They believe that children deserve to be armed with the knowledge about how food will shape their lives—to be educated so that they understand that food comes from a garden, grows on trees, or roams on a farm. Real food does not come from a box.

"It is quite simple," Kerri states. "Real food is not on the $.99 value menu, it does not cause weight gain and disease or lead to alarming obesity statistics. Real food is the key to living a healthy life. When you eat real good, you feel real good."

With the company still in its first year, the Hugheys are working hard to get the name out there and build a following of supporters. Kerri says that their biggest reward has come from knowing that they are helping kids in their community understand how to live a healthy lifestyle — and create possibility in their lives.

Currently, the Hugheys are focused on raising money through The Wellgro Co. to build a garden at Travis High School, and they have several events in the works for February and March. Past events have included the REAL Food Social at Contigo Austin, when The Wellgro Co. acted as the Austin ambassadors for Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day, hosting the social that connected people in the community for food education.

And what are Kerri's and Ed's favorite foods? Arugula, for Kerri, and Ed's fave are  green veggies (or anything slowly brought to perfection in a smoker). 

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