By Megan O’Malley (’17)
What happens when you see people suffering from poor diets, you have a business degree and an entrepreneurial spirit, and you like good food?
You start a new business, connect with local providers and you deliver nutritious meals right to people’s doors. That’s what Jennifer Van Cott (’13) did, and now her creation, Pantry Fuel is serving up goodness to those who need it most.
Q: Tell us about your journey from Gonzaga to the beginnings of Pantry Fuel.
I studied business with a concentration in law and public policy, initially heading toward Law school. After graduation, I spent a year in Colorado, training for marathons and cycling. I was there when my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I witnessed the total lack of healthy meal options she had while she was sick. Later when I visited my aunt and uncle, I saw that they had a meal delivery system which was convenient for them, but it was such poor quality food. The idea was brewing, and I thought, “I need to get these people healthy food!”
Q: So, how does Pantry Fuel work?
If you’d like cooked meals delivered to your door, you can subscribe to either the Healthy Heart plan or the High Protein plan. We also offer a meal plan subscription that includes five new recipes each week.
Our mission is to help people heal their bodies through local whole foods. At first, I wanted to focus on the geriatric population. (Caretaking is a hard job, especially when considering where the next meal is coming from.) However, my first customers were young, health-conscious, busy families and athletes. I’m just starting to expand into our senior market, and the hope is to continue to do so as Baby Boomers retire.
Another unexpected part of Pantry Fuel is that we have started to sell our own bone broth, which has become a huge part of our business. Bone broth is so nutrient-rich and is gaining popularity across the nation. Bone broth bars are a growing and new trendy thing up and down the East coast. You can purchase the bone broth along with your meals and we will deliver it to your home or office.
Q: What Spokane organizations supply your food?
We mostly work with Urban Eden farm and LINC foods, which is a local community food cooperative.
Q: How would you suggest people become involved with the local food scene?
Immerse yourself in the farmers markets. Visit the local farms. Call one and ask about the Grade B produce – that’s the stuff that won’t make it to the farmer’s market because of its appearance, but it’s still very nutritious compared to Grade A produce. Don’t let good local food go to waste.
Local Farmers Markets
Kendall Yards— Wednesdays, 4-8 p.m.
Millwood — Wednesdays, 3-7 p.m.
Spokane — Saturdays & Wednesdays 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
South Perry — Thursdays, 3-7 p.m.
Q: Who creates your recipes?
I start with the seasonal ingredients I get from the farms each week. Then I spend 3+ hours searching recipes and editing them to fit each nutrition plan. Once the recipe is ready, our chef cooks them.
Q: How did your time at Gonzaga prepare you for Pantry Fuel?
The entrepreneurship classes at Gonzaga were wonderful. Dr. Finkle was my professor for those courses and had a huge influence on my career.
Dr. Stewart of the Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program is also doing an excellent job getting those students real-life business experience. Both are great resources for the Gonzaga community and beyond.
I go in during midterms and finals to share about my path. It’s great to still feel connected.
A Pantry Fuel Recipe for You: Baked Apricot Chicken
1 serving//Cook Time: 45:00
- ¼ cup uncooked brown rice
- 3.5 oz. cooked (5 oz. uncooked) boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ tablespoon canola oil
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 tablespoon basil + more fresh chopped basil for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup stock/broth
- 1 large apricots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 1 cup)
- Greens, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350°. Drizzle oil on all sides of chicken and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken until no longer pink, 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, boil salted water and cook rice accordingly.
- Heat oil in pan on medium-heat. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 45 to 60 seconds or until fragrant. Add basil, broth, and chopped apricots. Once chicken is cooked thoroughly, add to pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and serve over brown rice. Garnish with fresh basil and greens.
Approx. Calories Per Serving: 412
Percentage of Macronutrients: Fat=25%; Carbs=47%; Protein=28%
Nutrition Info: Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Egg Free, Milk Free, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Soy Free, Fish Free, Shellfish Free, Pork Free, Alcohol Free, No Sugar Added