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Finding Balance (in a Box) in Kalamazoo

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Michelle Koles | KzooConnect

When Michelle Koles arrived in Kalamazoo eight years ago with her family she never thought she'd be pursuing her passion for creating healthy delicious food in our fair city.

Arriving from Rhode Island where Koles was the owner and director of a Montessori school, she always had buried in the back of her mind a love of food and passion for healthy eating. Eventually that sparked an interest in doing something for others while "feeding" her passion... and that was the inception of what would become One Balanced Box.

Koles, now a mother of 3 children (1 biological and 2 adopted), wanted to be sure to create healthy food that would also appeal to kids. Needing a resource to help her get started, she turned to the Can-Do Kitchen.

Koles shared, "They have amazing resources and connections. You need to know what you need and who to talk to make things happen."

Her first business was creating pizza kits made from locally sourced dough and meats. What kid doesn't like to make their own pizza? These kits were sold at the 100 Mile Market for a season. Soon her vision moved beyond pizza, and the idea of producing complete meal kits, also made from locally sourced ingredients, began taking shape.

The stage was set for One Balanced Box, a meal kit order business for people who want to eat healthy, homemade, vegan meals made from fresh, locally grown ingredients.

Koles went on to explain her vision, "My business is making meal kits using local produce and products from local small businesses. I create recipes, spices, sauces and soups and combine them with other products like local tortillas, mixes and pastas for families to create their own meals. I strive to make it more affordable than the national ones but at the same time help and introduce local small businesses."

All meal kits include a recipe card and key ingredients. Koles' menus go up on the One Balanced Box website Wednesdays and orders are due Friday. Traditionally there are 2 meal kits to select from and a discount if you order both meals! Price per kit is $38, and serve at least 4 people. The orders are ready Tuesday of the following week and can be picked up at her prep kitchen, located at the First Baptist Church or at Natural Health Center; or if you live in the Kalamazoo or Portage area they can be delivered to your door for a $3.00 delivery fee.

When perusing the One Balanced Box website you'll see the amazing past menus that Koles has developed as well as her current weekly offerings. The mouthwatering Portobello Mushroom Fajitas with lime slaw and "sour cream" may catch you eye, or maybe the Carrot Cake Waffles with vegan made cinnamon cream cheese and fresh strawberries will be more tempting to your taste buds. The website is complete with vivid images of the recipes to complete the vision of these creative offerings!

Koles develops her menus depending on what's fresh and in season at the time. She leans on her family to be her food critics and gets inspiration and product from ValleyHub, a farm, food hub, and education center through KVCC. They produce interesting products that challenge Koles to develop new meals utilizing them.
Recently ValleyHub had amaranth, a leaf vegetable for her to use- and definitely a product she had never worked with. Koles used her creative juices and ended up with a new version of spring rolls!

It's definitely her passion and quest for amazing partners that make Koles' meal kits so unique. In addition to ValleyHub some other food partners include the Dough Chicks, Crisp Country Acres, J&J Tortillas, the People's Food Co-Op and most recently Green Gardens Farms.

Koles business has begun to take off recently, and some of that could be attributed to the movement in the local food scene toward support of local, healthy ingredients.
Koles remarked, "The food scene has grown so much over the past 8 years. The availability of locally grown and produced foods is amazing."

We hope that Koles continues to call Kalamazoo home for a long time so that our community can further benefit from her vision, her passion for incredible food and her partnership with local small businesses to help us find the balance!

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