Kimmi Cobb is a healthy eating hero through and through. As head of catering at Zirkle/Rainier Fruit, Kimmi and her team handle everything related to feeding fulltime employees as well as, thousands of H2A seasonal workers year after year. Beyond that, Kimmi’s peers consider her a Wholesome Hero because she has helped reshape so many employees’ attitudes toward healthy eating. Kimmi has taught them that healthy eating is a lifestyle, not a diet, and that small changes go a long way.
Kimmi has been in charge of all catering services at Zirkle/Rainier Fruit since 2013 when she came in as a private caterer. While Zirkle was one of her clients at first, the company quickly saw how valuable she was to the team and offered her the opportunity to grow their catering program into a broader vision. Soon Kimmi closed down the catering company she and her husband Matt owned to fully manage the in-house endeavor.
Having always been self-employed (Kimmi was even a hairdresser for 12 years!), this was no small step and one she didn’t take lightly. Here was the opportunity to continue doing something she loved and to really feel like she could make a difference. Fast forward to today, Kimmi runs breakfast, lunch, breaks and dinner at two cafeterias with gusto and hasn’t looked back.
From Solo Catering to A Culinary Team
With the ease with which she comes up with delicious menus and preparing food that everyone thinks tastes good and is good for them, it is hard to believe that Kimmi doesn’t have a formal culinary degree. Rather, cooking and catering were things she enjoyed doing and happened to be good at. Once she joined the Zirkle/Rainier Fruit team, she noticed there weren’t many healthy options available. Challenge accepted! She soon brought salad bars to the cafeterias and encouraged small changes, like adding chicken as a form of protein to employees’ everyday lunches. “Our salad bar is huge! There really isn’t anything that is not on it and I am very proud of it.” She thinks a healthy lifestyle is very dependent on actually having options, such as fruit and veggies and granola bars that employees can have instead of chips or candy bars. “We really can’t keep those items stocked fast enough!”
At many companies, out of town guests are taken to dinners at local restaurants, but at Zirkle/Rainier Fruit, the company loves showing their guests a home-cooked, family style dinner – dinners that Kimmi takes pride in preparing.
Kimmi couldn’t accomplish this or her other everyday tasks without some help. “I have an awesome crew, I really couldn’t do it without them,” says Kimmi. “I always worked by myself (with my husband) and while I enjoyed it, I truly appreciate the help I get from the 11 women on my team who teach me so much! Here they think I am teaching them, but it is they who have taught me so much.”
During the season, Zirkle/Rainier Fruit’s kitchen will serve 400-500 H2A workers at one time. Meals include the early 5 am shift, lunch at noon and also meals that are sent to workers’ housing quarters. The catering team even does harvest parties for the crews. “I do a little bit of everything in the kitchen. I help with the cooking, I make the menus (and try to make them balanced and healthy), I shop for the food. The only thing I don’t do much of is serve, but that’s because I am just not fast enough. And when we have to feed hundreds at once, the last thing I want to do is get in the way and compromise my team’s efficiency. It gets crazy but I love seeing the same faces coming through time and time again.”
Wholesome to the Core
It’s not only Kimmi’s team that has taught her so much. “In my catering experience, the people I make food for are the ones who are Wholesome to the Core. Their appreciation, daily hellos and smiles for a home cooked meal mean a lot to me. I am so thankful to work for a company like Zirkle /Rainier Fruit which produces wholesome products. Good quality ingredients, wholesome ingredients are the start of wonderful wholesome meals. Our goal is to show people we can eat healthy meals that look good on the plate and taste great. It’s good for them to see this and make small changes to improve their diet and overall health.”
Of course, it took time to change people’s eating habits. One way in which Kimmi was able to get people on board was by bringing in what she calls, “Healthy Vending” through offering healthy choices such as power bars, healthy and fast grab snacks. Additionally, we offer delicious yogurt parfaits, veggie cups, sandwiches and wraps made fresh daily by my team. It’s funny what happens when people have access to healthy options – they eat them!”
Helping People Feel Good
Employees really enjoy the healthy options because it allows them to feel better while on the job. The last thing they want while working is to feel sluggish from heavy food. “It’s really rewarding to see people we see day in and day out, and all of a sudden that healthy kick will hit them, and they start eating healthier foods every day; they start eating more salads. In turn we see the changes first hand and they feel better and of course want to keep eating that way. It feels good to see that we are making a difference in their health.”
Kimmi and her team keep the prices low and affordable. Employees are able to buy their meals at cost. “The owners of the company really stand by not making a profit from our cafeterias; they really just want workers to be happy and healthy. The management team really understands how positive workplace environments build workplace satisfaction.”
A program Kimmi introduced she personally loves is one that gives back. “On the last Tuesday of every month, everyone gets to eat for free. Everyone’s included: if the truck drivers come in, they’re going to eat for free. If the guys mowing the lawn come in, they’re going to eat for free. We feed a lot of people that day, as you can imagine!”
One Wholesome Hero
So, what keeps Kimmi happy at her job? “The people! I love my job. I try to make everything I do better every time I do it. It’s like a competition with myself. I love everyone I work with; it truly is like we are a family. It’s a big family, but we are very close! It feels really good to have that connection with so many different people. I am usually the quiet girl in the background. I like doing nice things for people, but I don’t want to be known for them. That being said, I am honored that my peers have chosen me as a Wholesome Hero. I couldn’t be one without my team – I am so proud of them and their hard work.”
That’s the thing about Wholesome Heroes and people like Kimmi Cobb. Wholesome Heroes are those among us getting up, going about their jobs, doing the right thing, going the extra mile. They don’t think what they do is special. They don’t ask to be recognized. They think what they do is normal. But we all know it’s these special people who inspire us all to do better and each of these individuals make the world a little better for the rest of us.