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Companion Chefs with Local Foods

Assist individual entrepreneurs including myself to become companion chefs to people with dementia.

Photo of Laura Hedlund
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with dementia?

Companion Chefs offer families emotional connection and quality foods. Companion Chefs supports local farms, a resilient food system and provide individuals with decentralized opportunities to earn money. Think the Uber driver of local food system. A Companion Chef can help families reduce food waste, coordinate healthy eating while offering community connections.

A wife worries about her husband in the early stages of Alzheimers being left at home alone when she needs to leave for a week. The husband would be angry if she suggested an expensive professional caregiver. The wife was already paying for home delivered food kits so asking a friend to come over and cook those meals was natural. 

Every family needs are unique. The word "Companion Chefs" can be like the word "Farmers Market." No one person or organization "owns" this concept. Just as farmers market needed legal and structural frameworks - to birth the concept of "Companion Chefs" requires structure, and structure which is fluid to meet individual needs.

The mechanistic centralized food system leads to chronic health diseases in humans while harming our reciprocal bonds with the natural world. The local food movement is addressing problems such as pesticides in water, lost of topsoil and lost of vital nutrients in foods with regenerative approaches to agriculture. The model of regenerative agriculture as documented by efforts such as The Main Street Project in Northfield, Minnesota offers a sane and kind approach to the food system. Yet people in the local food movement can struggle financially. "Companion Chefs" just like the "Care Farming" models emerging across the world can offer a vital revenue stream.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Coordinating with local farm for a one day - cook direct from the farm event. For example - show up with chicken, squash, potatoes, green beans. Bake ingredients to eat dinner that night and use left overs to make stew - some of which is put in the freezer.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

The legal, accounting frameworks are challenging.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

Since 2004, I have worked at AM950Radio in the MPLS/St Paul area. Since 2012, I have co-hosted I also worked as a PR Director for a 25,000 member organization and served on Paul Wellstone's upset 1990 win for US Senate and David Minge, 1992


Join the conversation:

Photo of Keith Riggs

I like your integrative approach. Bringing people into positive generating experiences around food is so natural and universal. Great!

I see from the messages below that some graphics and pictures are coming. Can you find some local young filmmakers to help you capture these experiences? It would be great to see the experience and how you will amplify it. Looking forward to seeing more details and how you can spread the good idea across communities.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Laura,

It is good to have you in the challenge.
I just want to check I understand the concept. Would companion chefs stay in the home and look after the person with dementia for short-stays and have some training in caregiving or they would come with home cooked meals and check up on the person?

Would you elaborate more on 'I would like to see my contribution advertised in a campaign to educate new caregivers. This would be launched in doctor's offices in America.' Is this how the solution would scale?

Is there any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Photo of Laura Hedlund

Thank you for your comment. While I like the idea of scaling via advertisement in doctor's offices - this detail was not in my original proposal. I see the scaling of "Companion Chefs" growing out of connections with suppliers of foods. Community Supported Agriculture or CSA's is creating anti-fragile, decentralized food systems based on living soils. "Companion Chefs" can support caregivers AND create revenue for local farms AND help people be business owners. The way I see Companion Chefs is that individuals will show up with food. Clearly training will be a core element. My original proposal included graphics but they would not upload so I had to cancel and start again. I will try again later

Photo of Joanna Spoth

Sorry if you had trouble uploading the graphics Laura Hedlund ! We'd love to see them and if you're still having trouble please reach out to me at