A partnership between Home Helpers and BistroMD was forged when the senior-care franchise began noticing its caregivers were bringing food from home to ensure their clients were getting enough to eat on the caregivers’ days off.

While she’s proud to have franchisees’ employees willing to go up and beyond the call of duty, Cheryl Hammons, Home Helpers’ senior vice president of franchise services, says “they shouldn’t be doing that out of their own pocket.” While they have big hearts, they don’t have deep pockets. Their hourly rate is around $10 to $11.

And then there’s the food-safety angle.

“So we started looking at fresh options (to offer clients),” she says.

Hammons and franchisee Teresa Nelson, who discovered her employees making an extra lasagna or zucchini bread for clients, started brainstorming on a solution.

Cheryl Hammons, Home Helpers

Meal kits were deemed to require too much work for seniors to prepare, and traditional packaged dinners in the frozen food section of grocery stores tended to be high in sodium and preservatives and low on flavor.

Nelson reached out to a national manufacturer of organic frozen meals headquartered in her state and while no one from that company responded, one of the founders of Silver Cuisine reached out to her via LinkedIn. “I was the matchmaker,” she says.

BistroMD, a 12-year-old frozen-meal company that touts its healthy, low-calorie food to dieters, had launched its senior product just a couple of years earlier. The relationship between the two companies moved quickly, says BistroMD’s COO Phillip Moore, because Home Helpers was hosting its annual franchisee convention and wanted to introduce the product there.

Moore handed out $50 gift cards to the franchisees to order meals to sample. And while the meals were geared toward people on special diets requiring low-sodium, heart-healthy or gluten-free, they tasted good, Hammons says. Home Helpers clients and their families receive a 12% discounts on the meals, which range in price from $6 to $7 for a breakfast to $9 to $10 for a dinner. The most expensive meal is Norwegian salmon for $15.

“We just launched this and the owners are going crazy,” Hammons says. “This answers a need.”

Moore says the reason the businesses work well together is they both have the same philosophy: “Helping seniors live independently and stay in their homes as long as possible.” BistroMD was started by a physician and her husband, who saw a need in their hometown of Naples, Florida, for healthy, individual meals that could be pulled out of the freezer when snowbirds didn’t feel like cooking in their efficiency kitchens. It became a national business, when the snowbirds returned home for the summer and wanted the meal service to continue. The company now has six production facilities and ships to 48 states. “We’re in a two-day (delivery) timeframe from 95% of the country, he says.

According to Moore, the difference between the two products is that Bistro is a meal subscription plan, where the most common order is three-meals a day, seven days a week, while Silver Cuisine is an ´å la carte program where customers can order as many or as few meals as they want. “We see this as a growth vehicle,” he says about the senior option.

Hammons knows first hand the importance of ensuring an elderly parent eats well. “My father thinks a bowl of Frosted Flakes is a good dinner, and I don’t,” she points out.

Silver Cuisine also partners with AARP, but Home Helpers gets a better discount, she adds with a laugh.

“Our next step is to partner with Silver Sneakers and get them exercise,” she says about her senior clients.

Going for the silver

As the only staff member old enough to qualify for Silver Cuisine, it fell upon me to order and be the official team taste tester.

Cheryl Hammons’ father who is a retired chef gave her the thumbs up on the taste of the nutritious meals, but we decided to try them ourselves.

Our selection of four arrived in a large cardboard box with ample insulation to keep them frozen. The individual portions are larger than the Lean Cuisines we sometimes indulge in, but have around 350 to 400 calories and all natural ingredients. We especially liked the African Peanut Stew, where the “peanuts” were actually chickpeas. The chocolate-chip crepes with pork sausage hash wasn’t our kind of meal, although the crepes held up to microwaving nicely.

They’re easy to prepare, thawed or frozen, and I can see how an adult child would feel good about signing his or her parent up for meal delivery. Hammons says the average client’s children live about 280 miles away. My children live even farther away, but I don’t see them ordering me meals anytime soon.

Which is a bummer because each meal has a cardboard sleeve which says, “Consuming this product may cause joy.”