Dinners-to-Go, A Meal Assembly Service for Low-Income Working Mothers

Period of Performance: 09/30/2007 - 03/30/2008


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Mattson, Inc.
Foster City, CA 94404
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Dinners-to-Go, A Meal Assembly Service for Low-Income Working Mothers Reliance on fast food and convenience food is a relatively inexpensive way for working mothers to save time shopping, preparing meals, and cleaning up. However, it also contributes to higher calorie intake and lower consumption of fruits and vegetables. This problem is especially pronounced among low-wage working families who may be especially dependent upon fast food to solve the time crunch faced by the 70% of women with children who work. This SBIR Phase I proposal will investigate the proof of concept for Dinners-to-Go, a meal assembly business designed for families making less than $50,000 annually and who live in urban areas. Meal assembly is one of the fastest growing sectors of the food industry, but is targeting upper income families in suburban areas. The nearly 700 businesses provide a central location where people can assemble 12 or more family meals. Customers freeze the meals at home to serve later, which saves time in meal preparation and clean-up. They pay between $3.75-$5.00 per serving, and entrees tend to be lower in calories than a restaurant entre. Phase I objectives include 1) Conduct consumer research to validate the appeal of the meal assembly business model among a lower-income clientele; 2) Develop and test a menu of 30-40 dinner recipes appealing to the market segment identified in the Aim 1 research; and, 3) Draft a start-up business plan for a meal assembly business. Phase II will establish a meal assembly business in order to test the impact of Dinners- to-Go among families with an income of less than $50,000. A quasi-experimental pre- and post-test will measure changes in fruit and vegetable consumption, total calorie intake, use of fast food, nutrition knowledge, and satisfaction with the meals. It will also test the financial viability of the concept. If Phase II is successful, Phase III will expand Dinners-to-Go in new locations through franchise arrangements. The expansion of Dinners-to-Go stores will provide lower income working mothers and their families better access to lower calorie meals with more servings of vegetables.