Growing Well

Photography of Kerri Keaton Hughey and Ed Hughey by Paige Newton

What do cooking and eating like our grandparents did have to do with saving the world? More than you might think, says the married couple behind The Wellgro Co., a socially conscious online business and lifestyle project that seeks to harken back to the days of unprocessed foods and reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity through education and advocacy for real food.

Cofounder Kerri Keaton Hughey, who has a background in retail management and fashion, says the year-old business was born out of a conversation she had with her husband, architectural designer and fellow food enthusiast Ed Hughey, on what they could do to make a difference with the resources they had available. “It became a brainstorming session,” she recalls, “and we decided that we could impact the Austin community and hopefully, in the future, a larger part of our country by raising money to help plant school gardens and to help fund food-education programs within schools.”

The Wellgro Co. does this, in part, through sales of organic-cotton T-shirts with fun illustrated reminders to eat authentic, unprocessed foods—like a string and a leaf tied around a finger or a stop-sign-red message to “Enjoy Real Food.” Tickets are also sold for fund-raising events, such as an upcoming herb-gardening workshop at Contigo Austin and a roller-skating party, with a substantial portion of the proceeds set to fund a new vegetable garden at Travis High School.

While the duo hopes to keep The Wellgro Co.’s brand quirky, optimistic and approachable, the intention is also to effect real social change. “Thinking about kids on the free- and reduced-lunch plan,” says Kerri, “and knowing that those school meals may be the only meals that they get in a day, I just feel that they deserve food that’s going to make them healthy versus food that will ultimately make them sick.”

Indeed, current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are alarming and show that, in the U.S., one-third of children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes and that 17 percent of all children are obese. The Hugheys also point out that these statistics are completely reversible. “Let’s do things the way our grandparents did: eat more fruits and veggies, make meals from scratch and celebrate our communities. When you eat real good, you feel real good!”—Nicole Lessin