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We got a number of emails in response to our story last week about Dream Dinners, a franchise operation that sells people the ability to come to specific locations and prepare a month's worth of meals, which then can be frozen and kept by shoppers until needed.

MNB user Art Turock wrote:

Here are two more Seattle based operations similar to Dream Diners, with the shopper preparing their months meals at the cooking school. Both have been in business for at least a year. One is Cuizam! Cook and Carry Cuisine and the other is Month of Meals.

I've been speaking to retailers for years, to rethink their assumption that a meal solution is for a single meal, rather than thinking a week, two weeks, or a month's supply. And rather than disintermediation, why not have this cooking facility compliment the supermarket, featuring foods available from the supermarket and being in close proximity.

I'm not sure if this is a national trend but it's catching on in Seattle.

As in so many things gastronomic, Seattle leads the way…

MNB user Bob McMath chimed in:

I just want to remind entrepreneurs that are considering ways to get consumers to buy a weeks worth of food -- especially frozen food -- that Campbell's tried it with its special diet meals you purchased and they shipped to you at one time -- a week's worth at a time. One of the reasons it failed was that the consumers didn't have a big enough freezer capacity to keep all the meals for a week at a time -- especially as the week ran down and a new shipment overlapped the last week with a lot of new packages.

This sort of thing is easy to forget in this environment of bright young executives trying to be inventive who may not have ever heard of Campbell's big trial -- and failure with the attempt.

Another member of the MNB community wrote:

Last night my wife and I were both running late and needed to pick up a meal. We discussed our options and decided the highest quality and fastest meal to pick up was from one of the National restaurant chains that now offer curbside delivery service. From the time my wife and I made our decision and called in the order, we were enjoying our various choices with our family within 25 minutes. The point is, by the time you park in a grocer's lot, stroll into the store and walk to the very back where the Deli is located, make your choices, wait in line( even self check out) and get back in the car, dodge the carts and traffic, come home and reheat our meal and finally sit down to dinner, we are exhausted.

I have been working with various grocers through the years to help them with the HMR programs , but there is one issue they continue to ignore. CONVENIENCE! Until our local retailers get rid of the old layouts of their store ( living with the motivation to make EVERY customer walk several aisle just to pick up fresh products) and focus on the convenience that HMR is supposed to represent, the restaurants will continue to win. (We will leave quality aside for another day!)

And yet another MNB user offered the following scenario:

I don't see why Wal-Mart with its 3000 stores…couldn't offer this right out of its stores today. It would require a reworking of its deli kitchen/food preparation area to do so but that should be a minor problem should this become a desirable feature to enough customers.

That ought to give our supermarket readers nightmares…

The whole issue of obesity and low-carb dieting and nutrition and the confusion/opportunities inherent in these issues continues to prompt tons of email from MNB users. (There are also was some reaction to an email we published last week from an MNB user from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.) A generous sampling of these emails follows…

MNB user Bobbie Randall wrote:

I learned long ago not to argue with fanatics. As a registered dietitian, I am already planning methods to pick up the pieces of the Atkins Alumni.

This fad will die out sooner than the Low Carbiz would like. Within six months, those who lost pant sizes will be searching in the back of their closets for their 'fat' clothes once again. I don't mean to be pessimistic about the fad dieters but only realistic.

MNB user Julia Hidy wrote:

Millions go on diets each year; drink orange juice; others don't. Free and choice are musts, especially in the privacy of my own home. So whether it's the cattle ranchers, or Oprah, the OJ pushers or OJ naysayers, they all have a right to their opinions.

And about diets and the "new scientific review" drawing "a clearer link between low-carb diets and cardiac arrhythmia" noted by MNB reader Patrick Sullivan of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: compromised electrolyte, potassium and magnesium levels -- which directly influence a heart's ability to function properly -- can occur before someone starts a new diet. Did Rachel Husky, the 16 year old alleged to have died because of a low carb diet, confer with her physicians before beginning her dietary program? I doubt it. Do Rachel's parents, peers, schools or even her local supermarket manager's displays play a role in determining or swaying Rachel's earlier eating patterns? Likely. How many people have proper blood work done before they begin a new diet so they know if their electrolyte levels are low or they are at risk to undertake the diet? How many diets are truly adequate nutritionally? They all say they are, including the Government's. And we all know what kind of resistance there is to removing milk and other modifications from the US' food guidelines.

With cultural issues reinforced by an oft visual and sensory culture and a profound need to be thin, who eats to live? We keep justifying the "live to eat" and then wonder why diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancers and low energy levels grip 75% to 80% of us. Wonder when a nutritionist will sit at the end of my grocery aisle, rather than a paid sales person hawking the latest convenience or gourmet foods? Perhaps sooner vs. later might be better. While they're at it, how about having the average physician take more than just one mandatory course in nutrition to gain their M.D. status?

Another MNB user wrote:

FYI about quoting PCRM as a "reliable" source. Even if it is the opinion of a reader, what that reader quotes from his own organization might be construed as an actual fact - when it could be based on misleading information. Since the tragic story of Rachel's death, very little else has been reported of a connection between low-carbs and cardiac arrhythmia in her case.

And MNB user Katherine Johnston wrote:

Please note that PCRM is part of PETA. This does not make them advocates of “responsible medicine” but for vegetarianism.

MNB user Joan LaBelle chimed in:

Low Carb diets are a trend. Carbs fuel our bodies and it has been stated that 130 grams of carbs a day is the minimum required for brain function. I believe there is going to be a significant number of health issues that are going result from this one sided diet. It has always been stated that the best way to take it off and leave it off are to watch your fat, calories, and carbs and to exercise daily. It takes longer and that's why most people will not take that route. I've done it that way and believe me it works but it takes time. I'll stick with staying healthy, getting all my food groups and nutrients.

And MNB user Rosemary Deahl wrote:

Your paragraph about not realizing that food was fuel and then going on to say that referring to it as fuel understates it power and mystery is a great example of how much trouble we are all in as a culture. Food can be as you said, art music and poetry, but we are in a crisis mode in our country right now. That requires people to stop making jokes, and take this issue very seriously. More that 60% of our population is overweight. There are more overweight children suffering from diet related diseases that ever before. We are talking about astronomical health care costs, which as a society we will all pay for .

We already view food in romantic terms, which is why we do ads and TV commercials to sell it - both to children and adults. This approach takes us all out of the realm of reality and puts us into the world of magical thinking. In that world no one looks at the true cost of not dealing with the food issue head on. They simply look at the romantic view (which also includes art, music, etc..) and none of the consequences.

For most people to throw up their arms and say, "no one agrees and therefore I am confused so I will just continue to do what I am doing" is flawed thinking at best. If we stay in the state of confusion we step out of personal responsibility. It is in that nebulous state that we do not have to acknowledge it our responsibility as individuals to control our bodies.

We also do not need to wait until the scientific community comes to any agreement. We need to act now. Any person who decides to follow a "diet" will discover they do not work in the long term. The reason they work in the short term is the person is focusing on their intake of food and usually doing some exercise. As soon as they fall off the diet (and they all do) they put on the pounds again and then go back to their unconscious ways around food.

So why not realize that what is necessary here is nothing short of a revolution. Stop allowing your children to watch TV without you being their to help them sort through the mountains of commercials aimed at getting them to buy their unhealthy products. Take the soda and snack machines out of schools. Put the gym programs back in. Put more than a few million dollars into the budgets of American Cancer Society (where they spend about 1% of their total budget to let people know that more than 30% of all cancers are diet related), put more money into the federal budgets to promote eating more fruits and vegetables and run those ads on Saturday morning TV.

And last, but not least, acknowledge that we do not need any new "diets" we need a change in our lifestyles, which would include eating responsibly and exercising.
KC's View: