Little did Sarah Tabele know that the meal planning and food preparation she did for her elderly grandparents two years ago would evolve into a business that would help feed so many residents in Greater Sudbury.
Tabele was the primary caregiver to her grandparents while on maternity leave caring for her own kids.
That spurred a client base of people recovering at home from injuries, surgeries and for seniors struggling to meal plan on their own under the name Fresh and Easy.
“When my grandparents needed help with food, support staff could only come and push microwave buttons for them,” she said. “I wanted a service that offered healthy meals and choice. They lost a lot of independence when they needed daily help and they just wanted choice in what they put in their mouths.”
Tabele works with social workers at rehabilitation centers for Alzheimer, Parkinson and arthritis patients to educate them about her nutritious meal-making and delivery service.
She says seniors love the meals like Salisbury steak, lasagna, cobb salads and fish dinners.
The intent was always to service seniors, but now much of her week is spent supporting breast cancer patients going through treatment, in her collaboration with the Breast Cancer Support Fund.
The organization is dedicated to supporting women with the financial burden of a breast cancer diagnosis.
A social worker visits the patient and determines the quality, quantity and length of support needed for each patient.
She says the service provides meals to the women and their families as they are focusing on their treatment and battling a changing palate and dietary restrictions.
“These women need to eat what they can with the little energy they have and their families get a chance to eat too so it is a win-win situation,” Tabele said. “And for those travelling to Sudbury for treatment from other northern communities, the meals are delivered right to the hotel room.”
The meals for cancer patients vary in choice and selection with what Sarah calls free range options. The families can choose the protein, carbohydrate and vegetables as well as spices and sauces, depending on what the patient feels up to and what the doctor has recommended.
All the Fresh and Easy meals are prepared in a certified kitchen in the South End of the city and then delivered by a team of compassionate delivery personnel.
As for cost, Tabele recognizes that her customers are on a fixed budget and with food costs rising, that does not escape her.
Suppliers help her decide where the deals are each week, which is why her menu is quite static and interchangeable.
Tabele also offers a complete keto friendly menu - something she felt was lacking in Sudbury.
“I have recipes for pizza and burgers and yummy desserts. All of these menu items seem rich, but there are keto alternatives so no one feels they are missing out with dietary restrictions,” she says.
Tabele, whose work once had her in a legal office setting, finds her new career rewarding when she sees the difference a simple meal can make in the lives of others.
“I have a customer in Southern Ontario who orders meals for her father in Sudbury so he can stay in his house after a kitchen accident,” she said. “I have seniors who are bouncing back after major health scares one nutrient at a time. I have people with broken limbs who cannot stand to cook and need support just for the short term.
“I even have four different customers who come from Manitoulin Island each week for meals. I keep telling them they should consider carpooling.”
Tabele says there is so much room for growth not just in our city but beyond to the rest of the north. With an aging population, Tabele is sure that Fresh and Easy is here to stay.
Customers can also call Sarah Tabele directly at 705-822-8946.
Anastasia Rioux is a writer in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat! is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.