Mama Sezz: 'It's going great'

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WEST BRATTLEBORO — A local start-up focused on getting whole-food plant-based food into more people's diets wants to feed off its early success.

"It's going great," said Meg Donahue, co-owner of Mama Sezz.

She reported a 15 to 20 percent increase in monthly meals being delivered to homes around the United States. A delivery truck makes the rounds in the tri-state area.

The West Brattleboro site — originally planned to be the company's production facility until a location in Keene, N.H., was chosen instead — is being renovated inside to become more of a store and gathering place. It will continue to be used as a pop-up shop on Fridays and Saturdays, and for BOGO (Buy One Get One) sales on Thursdays.

The plan also includes hosting bimonthly pot luck dinners. Speakers and musicians will provide information and entertainment at the events.

"We'll supply a good chunk of the food," said Donahue. "Anyone's welcome to try the food and begin eating this way."

Donahue started changing her diet when she was at a loss for what to do to help her mother. At 80, her mother was at a hospice dealing with heart disease. At 87 now, she has much brighter days. And the whole-food plant-based diet is to thank, according to Donahue.

Mama Sezz had a soft opening in September 2016, then officially launched in February 2017. One of the goals is to help the community in a positive way, without shaming, said Donahue.

"It's really been extraordinary," she said of the growth.

The company has about 15 employees, many of them 30 to 35 years old, according to Donahue. They are encouraged to participate in a Cornell University program on the science behind plant-based diets.

It is believed that eating foods grown in the ground, which are not heavily processed and made using fertilizers, can prevent diseases and food-borne illnesses. Customers are said to have lost weight and gone off medications. Also, athletes are crediting the diet with improving injury recovery times and performance.

Donahue called the results "rewarding."

"They're healing," she said. "And it gives a lot of hope to people who are scared and baffled about what to eat."

Customers order meals anywhere from every week to every two weeks to every month, according to Donahue.

"It's really very varied," she said. "It's really amazing to hear story after story... about lives transformed."

Changes in mental states follow physical changes, she added.

Mama Sezz is in the process of making reusable shipping containers made of plastic found in the ocean. The company currently pays customers to send containers back.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., visited Mama Sezz last month.

"It was great," Donahue said. "Vermont is beautiful in that way. You have accessibility."

She told Welch about the company's goals around bringing more jobs to the state. She and co-owner Lisa Lorimer were both born in Vermont. They hope to support the economy while helping to make the workforce in general more healthy. They also want to inspire kids to eat healthier.

Another topic of discussion with Vermont's lone congressman was health care.

"We don't have a good solution yet," said Donahue. "I think this offers part of the solution, minimizing health care needs [around food-borne illnesses]."

She hopes to stay in touch with Welch and figure out ways to educate the public.

A community potluck dinner with whole-food plant-based food will be held on Oct. 13 at 5:30 p.m.

"All are welcome, said Donahue, "and you don't have to bring a whole-food plant-based meal."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.

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