Lake Effect Kitchen aims to make a difference

Marie Havenga • Sep 28, 2017 at 10:00 AM

As the owners of Lake Effect Kitchen, Mandy Anderson and Aaron Johnson prepare and package meals for people who don't like to or don't have time to cook.

But their mission runs deeper than making ready-to-heat meals. They want to make a difference in the world.

Both Anderson and Johnson have children with autism. Anderson’s son, Jaden, a Grand Haven High School freshman, has autism. Johnson's daughter, Abrielle, a sixth-grader at White Pines Intermediate School, also has autism.

Anderson and Johnson met through their volunteer work as board members for Autism Support of West Shore.

While they're helping busy families stay nourished, their ultimate goal is to provide on-the-job training for people with disabilities. Eventually, they would like to employ some of them at Lake Effect Kitchen, 1430 Fulton Ave. in Grand Haven.

“Our passion is for full inclusion and real, authentic community participation,” Anderson said. “Being authentic members of the community means employment at a competitive wage, not segregated employment at sub-minimum wage.” 

Anderson said they hope to use their business as a teaching tool for those with disabilities beginning early next year. Johnson, who is a chef, said they will teach the students how to cook, prepare meals and run a business.

“Our mission is to make a space that is inclusive for everyone in Grand Haven, no matter your ability or disability,” Anderson said. “I have four kids. Aaron has two. We've learned through having a child with autism how different it is for them to be included in community life and for people to accept them for their differences.

“People with disabilities are great members of the community and can make great employees,” she continued. “They can contribute to a business' bottom line.”

Lake Effect Kitchen, in the former Meals for a Week building, offers from single servings up to family-size meals as ready to heat for picking up, box lunches and catering. The meals range from lasagna and pasta bakes to beef stew, roasted chicken breast and enchilada casseroles. Breads, soups and desserts are also on the menu.

Customers order online by noon Friday, then pick up their order the following Tuesday or Wednesday.

“There's no contract,” Anderson said. “So on weeks you need it, you can do it. And on weeks you don't need it, then you don't have to order. We get a lot of people coming by on their way home from work. When we get more staff and are running more hours, we hope to expand our pick-up times.”

The selections are all hand-made from fresh ingredients.

“We cook everything with as many fresh ingredients as possible,” Anderson said. “It's all home cooking. We're focusing on healthy food, food that your family wants to eat. You can freeze them when you get home or put them in the refrigerator so they're ready to heat.”

For more information, or to place an order, visit www.lakeeffectkitchen.com or call 616-935-7229.

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