Laura Axelson loves creating nourishing and planet-friendly meals. A former Hope Clinic client and busy mom herself (she has two sons), Ms. Axelson now volunteers and helps new mothers by delivering healthy, home-made meals to them through her company, Dinner Belle Nashville. We love what she's doing for Hope Clinic, so we got the chance to talk to her a little more about her passion for cooking and helping others.
How did you hear about Hope Clinic? What made you want to become a volunteer?
I heard about the Hope Clinic because I became pregnant with my son Liam in 2010 and I didn't know how I was going to pay for my pregnancy. I was on a temporary health insurance plan and didn't have maternity insurance. I came and had an ultrasound (I think I even still have the original ultrasound from the Hope Clinic) and one of the staff members asked me what else they could do for me. I told them I didn't know how I was going to afford to have a baby. They told me about the Bridge program and I got right on board! It changed my life! I always felt unconditionally loved every time I came and I experienced God in a fresh, life changing way. The counseling gave me a lot of wisdom about the unhealthy relationship I had with my son's father. After Liam was born and I saw the abusive ways my ex-husband talked about my son, I had the courage to divorce him and get a fresh start in life. Being pregnant with Liam and going through the divorce almost immediately afterwards was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but was also the thing that has brought me closest to God. I always wanted to do something to give back to the Hope Clinic once I got a little distance from everything and was in a stable, healthy place in my life. Here I am! I am in a really healthy marriage now to a wonderful, Godly man and I have a second son now named Soren.
What inspired you to start Dinner Belle Nashville? Was there a moment where this idea “clicked” and came to you?
Yes, the idea for Dinner Belle came to me in an instant. I feel like God gave me the idea. I was sitting at my desk at my old job and all of a sudden the thought of making local, organic meals with re-usable packaging came to me. With two little boys and a part time job, it was hard for me to get dinner on the table in spite of the fact that I love cooking, taught a cooking class, truly value local ingredients, and wanted to feed my children wholesome, organic ingredients. I also thought there was too much wasteful packaging with the other nationwide meal kit services.
How much time do you spend preparing meals each week? Do you come up with your own recipes?
I spend about 50-60 hours a week planning meals, organizing and labeling meal kits, cooking, recipe-testing, photographing, and marketing. I rent a kitchen in Bellevue at Crumb de la Crumb/Captial Coffee for 20 hours a week, which is when the food that goes out to customers is made. I have a wonderful friend, Amy Smith, who is a chef that helps me cook. I get inspiration from Pinterest and cookbooks, but all of my recipes are my own.
What’s your favorite part about delivering meals to new moms?
My favorite thing about delivering meals to new moms is being able to give them a little support and encouragement. It's hard being pregnant and having a new baby, really hard! No one told me how much babies cry or that I was going to get almost no sleep for a couple of months. Phew! Sometimes it's just overwhelming. I want to be an encouraging, smiling face that has been there too and can empathize and remind a new mom that God is faithful and she will make it.
How has Dinner Belle Nashville blessed you?
Dinner Belle has blessed me because I feel like I'm really making a difference in a concrete way in people's lives. I love that food can be a powerful medicine if we eat the right foods--lots of unprocessed, organic vegetable, fruits, grains and nuts. I have one customer who is a cancer survivor. She said that her diet and health is now her full-time job. She is basically vegan and sugar-free (which is the cancer-free diet), so she can't eat out anywhere. Because I always offer 3 vegan meals a week, and don't use any refined sugar or gluten, she can now spend more time with her daughter, do things she wants to do, and relax about cooking a little bit.