Carbondale entrepreneur serves up Helpful Handfuls
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – In an attempt to come up with a simple energy snack to complement her triathlon training routine, and being lactose intolerant, Carbondale resident Cindy Jones not only found a solution, she created a new job for herself.
Jones would often freeze fruit in small packets to eat before a workout or even take along with her on her training runs or rides.
“I love eating cold stuff, especially in the summer,” she said. “But I can’t have ice cream and some of the other traditional frozen treats.”
So, the frozen fruit delicacies became a mainstay for the 12-year Colorado resident.
Upon moving to Carbondale last fall, Jones was having trouble finding work in the tight job market. A connoisseur of organic produce, and a big believer in buying local produce whenever possible, she came up with an idea.
Jones started Helpful Handfuls earlier this year, working with a manufacturer out of Hotchkiss to package frozen organic fruit, including some grown in western Colorado.
She has begun distributing the snack-size, 1 1/2-ounce packages in local convenience markets, health food stores and food co-ops, and has been working with school meal service program directors from Aspen to Rifle to offer them to local students.
“We tested them out on the kids, and they really loved it,” Jones said.
Flavors include North Fork Valley-grown cherries, the only locally grown fruit, but the most popular so far, she said.
Others are pineapple, cherry-mango, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and mango, with plans in the works to add locally grown peaches and grapes when they come into season later this summer.
Each of the flavors also features an endangered species, such as “Bella the Blackberry Butterfly,” “Rocky the Raspberry Rhino” and “Charlie the Cherry Tiger.”
“It’s a fun way to get the kids excited about it, and eat something healthy too,” Jones said.
Helpful Handfuls also plans to donate a portion of its proceeds back to community-based nonprofit organizations. Already, Jones has helped support the Carbondale-based organization Feed Them With Music, which uses donations from participating artist CD sales, music downloads and live performances to deliver nutritious meals to the hungry of the world.
The frozen fruit snacks are now a regular part of school lunch programs in Aspen public schools, Aspen Country Day School, as well as Rifle, Silt and New Castle schools. Just this past week, Jones finalized a deal with the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District to offer them at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, as well as at middle schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt. They’re also on the ala carte menu at Basalt High School.
“It’s definitely appealing as we try to offer more nutritious choices in our lunch programs,” Re-1 Food Service Director Michelle Hammond said. “It’s a product that’s whole and natural, with nothing added, and it supports a local business and local product.
“One of our biggest challenges is trying to find a healthy, frozen treat other than ice cream or popsicles that aren’t fattening and will be cost effective. With the warmer months ahead, we’ll likely see our purchases increasing,” Hammond said.
Jones also plans to offer Helpful Handfuls in packages of eight. Currently, the product can be found in the four 7-Eleven stores throughout the valley, at Thunder River Market and the Cowen Center, the Carbondale Food Co-op, Good Health Grocery in Glenwood Springs, and the newly opened Roxy’s health food store in Aspen.
“We have a great community here that buys local,” Jones said.
For more information, contact Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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