Deep fried maple bacon cookie dough, mac n’ cheese bacon burger quesadillas, and beer ice cream were big hits during 2014’s Wisconsin State Fair. However, if you’ve ever heard any stereotypes about the midwestern state, you’re probably not too surprised about some of the features on this fat-filled menu.
A Milwaukee native myself, I can attest to the impressive bombardment of fast food billboards and commercials that plague daily life in the Midwest, as well as the gluttonous (albeit absolutely amusing) festivals that celebrate poor health choices masked in the importance of tradition. As a child I frequented Kopps and Culvers, two fast food chains whose specialties are custard and “butter burgers”, respectively. I was smitten with cheese and put it on all my favorites: brats, brisket, and corned beef hash (before developing lactose intolerance, which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse).
These things are simply fixtures of Midwestern life, and will probably continue to be. But while 29.8 percent of Wisconsin’s adult population is obese and 8.2 percent are diabetic (http://stateofobesity.org/states/wi/), many people are trying to help break the deadly cycle through promoting healthy lifestyles. 24-year-old Michael Ruch is one such trailblazer born and raised in the Milwaukee area, where beer and cheese are not just typically consumed, but also deeply adored and mercilessly defended.
After working in the hospitality industry for several years and always having been conscious of his diet, Michael decided to begin his own catering company called Fit Food MKE that offers people convenient, healthy, and organic gourmet meals to help them maintain healthy weights and complement their exercise routines without the trouble of grocery shopping and cooking. As his website boasts, Fit Food allows you to “really have it all.” Each week he personally creates an extensive menu which he posts to his website fitfoodmke.com at noon every Wednesday, available to be ordered by phone or email for pickup at one of three health club locations around Milwaukee. The meals are never frozen and are kept in microwave safe containers, which take about 45-60 seconds to prepare once brought home. The food he buys, he says proudly, is all bought from farmers markets as the seasons permit and is completely free of MSG or preservatives.
But Fit Food’s audience doesn’t only target health club members or health conscious folks. He also works with More Oil, a corporate distributor of oil, who uses Fit Food to help improve employee health, thus making their company more eligible for big insurance, tax breaks and workers’ compensation. In addition, Michael plans on working with elderly people in the Milwaukee area who desperately need nutritious and convenient foods to maintain active lifestyles.
But isn’t it hard to get people in Milwaukee to eat well? Actually, it seems the tides in Milwaukee are turning as people are beginning to look to more organic and healthy options for food. There has been a bigger emphasis on local and organic produce within the restaurant community, and public markets offer high-quality selections of meat and grains. It was even dubbed “The New Portland” by Salon.com.
As his slogan– “Eat well, live well, be well”– asserts, he believes that food is one of the most important but widely ignored aspect of modern life. “The way you eat has a big influence on how you feel and how you treat others,” he says. Fit Food exists to promote the healthy lifestyle that some have already adopted and other aspire for this year– it is an honest way to give people the food they need and deserve. At only 8 months old, it’s hard to tell exactly where Fit Food is headed. But with the new changes in Milwaukee and Michael’s passion for healthy living, we’re excited to see where it goes.
This article was created as part of the Food Media class, offered through the Media Studies Department and taught by Beth Hoffman