The world runs on finding the next good meal. For many people nowadays, that meal comes shipped straight to their door. Over 31 percent of Americans use third-party meal delivery services – companies like Home Chef and Hello Fresh lead a market focused on convenience and efficiency. But what people gain from having their foods pre-prepared they lose in the joys of acquiring it: someone asking them how their day was shopping at the grocery store, or even the knowledge of what’s going into the plate they’re sticking in the oven.
Project LeanNation (PLN) is a health franchise with over 18,000 members that is centered on providing its customers with nutritious prepared meals to fulfill their needs while also giving them a warm, welcoming, and informative in-person experience. According to Shane Lucas and Sam Stowell, the queer founders behind Project LeanNation’s new Intown location, eating healthy doesn’t have to be so opaque or impersonal.
“PLN takes the heavy lifting out of being healthy,” Lucas told Georgia Voice. “We like to say that being healthy can be accessible to anybody.”
Their new brick-and-mortar location was built on this tenet of accessibility, conveniently located in the center of Atlanta’s Beltline.
Lucas is a longtime member of the fitness industry, and he sees both the merit in eating well, knowing what you’re putting into your body, and having a support system of knowledgeable, caring people to cheer you on. But an issue he saw was that a lot of meal companies don’t provide that comprehensive system of reinforcement, engagement, or education.
“[They] just deliver to your door each week and that’s the only thing you get,” Lucas said. “You don’t have anyone to talk to, or a person to ask questions to. Our community approach and having our LeanNation storefront is in part to help people who are either at the start of their journey with questions and don’t really know what they’re doing, or people who are already incorporating healthy eating and just want a bit of help and some meals always ready to go. You can talk to us about your goals, and we can help align you to your goals. If you have bigger questions, we can refer you out to a nutritionist or other people who can really help you identify what your goals are.”
When discussing the sizable slate meals, consultations, and other services his new Intown LeanNation storefront offers, Stowell pointed to the in-house InBody scanner as one of many examples of the benefits to an in-person location, “[The scanner’s] a really cool way of looking at what your body is made of. Rather than just hopping on the scale, it can check much more than your weight. It can check body fat, water weight, muscle mass, and where their muscle is placed on their body. Some people will come in for just the scan itself, then get interested in our meals and about everything else we have to offer.”
Stowell and Lucas both know that the personalized advice and rich community their PLN location provides are some of the most central perks of being a customer.
“When I moved here [from Charlotte], I was just missing this idea, this piece, this real sense of community which is what I had at Project LeanNation in Charlotte,” Lucas said. “They say if you want it, you build it.”
So, that’s what the pair did. Now, visiting the store, customers from all walks of life can choose from dozens of meal and food options, discovering the one that works best for them, and knowing, as Stowell noted, they won’t be stuck with the same slate of options for too long,
“There’s lots of good variety, and our menu rotates every 10 weeks,” he said. “At any one time, we have around 28 meal options. We offer two sizes of meals. We have our lifestyle portion, and an athlete portion. Lifestyle meals are pretty average size – all the macro and protein breakdown is really solid – and those are around 450 calories. Athlete meals have a little bit larger-sized portions. It works for people who either work out a lot more or are just generally very active. They’re about 650 calories and have good macro and protein breakdowns as well.”
More than just offering services, Stowell and Lucas want to engage with their local Atlanta community. And they have been, through donations and various events every month.
“On November 30, we’re doing a men’s health talk in the store,” Lucas said. “Last month we did a women’s talk, and we’re also looking to do a free workout for the community.”
Describing his and Stowell’s connection with the importance of building community, Lucas pointed to their own identities.
“We identify as gay men,” he said. “And for us the community aspect is probably the most important piece because what we know is that we have found so much success in our LGBTQIA+ community to truly support our efforts in this. We also know what it feels like just to be a person and to have a safe space to go to that is welcoming whether you identify as a part of the LGBT community or otherwise. We’re making a space where we do our best to make sure everyone feels welcome. Our world is always evolving, and that space is really important for us to curate in our community.”
Project LeanNation, they summarized, is a place for everyone to show up, enjoy their time, and get some good food.