Entrepreneurs of Waco: Bambino’s Baby Food coming to town?

By Michelle Nosrat

bambinos logoWhen most of us think of baby food, we think of unappetizing cans full of pureed carrots and peas. Zoi Maroudas, a Baylor alumnus and mother, has set out to change this stigma and bring baby food into the 21st century with her company, Bambinos Baby Food. Maroudas, who moved from Greece to Alaska when she was four years old, grew up working in her parents’ Mediterranean restaurant, originally came to Baylor for the medical program and the close-knit community.

While living in Waco, Maroudas worked at Hillcrest Hospital in geriatrics, where she helped patients build up their strength. Maroudas realized that her patients did not enjoy eating the hospital food, and, having grown up in a family where good food was a central part of life, she decided to approach the hospital cook about making the food not only healthy, but delicious.

Soon after, Maroudas made the transition into researching the diets of children. She saw the rising numbers of severe food allergies and obesity concerns across our nation and knew that she could use her medical background and experience in a restaurant to make healthy, yummy food that is also practical and sustainable. Maroudas conducted intensive analyses of her recipes that specifically focused on allergies, age appropriate nutrition and savory flavors. Then she took her products to be analyzed and approved by allergists and pediatricians. Bambinos was founded in Alaska and ships baby food across the nation to parents directly.

BambinosPortraits-0007As Bambinos continues to expand they are scouting across Texas looking for additional manufacturing locations and Waco is among of them. Maroudas says she is looking forward to creating new job opportunities, contracting local organic farmers for fruits and veggies and giving students opportunity to learn about nutrition and the manufacturing industry. The company is eco-friendly and continually aims to be entirely transparent, so parents know everything about the food they are feeding their children.

The new location will continue to encourage parents to stop by and see the manufacturing facility, ask questions about products and watch as the food is made. All Bambinos Baby Food is organic, all natural, and kosher. Bambinos Baby Food is a completely unique product. Each spoon full offers a complete balance of protein, grain and veggies. All of the meals are frozen, so the natural nutrients are preserved, whereas the canning processes used by most baby food companies loses many of those nutrients.

Maroudas wanted her food to be savory, as well as be healthy. She incorporates flavors commonly found in the Mediterranean diet so that babies develop a sense for those flavors earlier in life, which results in children learning to follow a healthy diet in the long run. Maroudas also incorporates seafood, so that babies can get natural omega 3 nutrients into their diets which is very important nutrient for brain development and social neural interactions.

star shaped foodOne of the most distinct elements of Maroudas and Bambinos is that she worked closely with allergists and pediatricians to make the food not only delicious, but healthy. Maroudas, in her research, discovered that nut allergies have become much more prevalent in children in recent years. In response to this, she used a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine to formulate her Peanut Mani Cookies. The recipe is a trade secret. It contains the exact amount of peanut protein to help a child develop an immunity to nuts, reducing the outbreak by 72%, when eaten once a day starting when the baby is four months old. The cookies are sweetened using oranges and carrots, so there is no added sugar at all, plus they are a great a source for beta carotene essential for eye development. And the best part is that they are not just for babies, but parents enjoy them as well.

Bambino’s Baby Food is available online, where you can purchase by the case, or through a subscription service. One case holds about a month’s supply of a particular dish, but can be kept frozen for as long as needed. Gift cards are also available for purchase, which is a perfect New Year’s resolution present for any new or expecting parent! More information about the products, including ingredients and nutrition facts are available at their website, bambinosbabyfood.com. Check them out on Facebook and Twitter as well!


Michelle NosratMichelle Nosrat is an AmeriCorps VISTA for ex-offender re-entry with the McLennan County Reintegration Roundtable. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts in English from the Honors College at Baylor University, and is planning to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work. She currently lives in Waco with her puppy, Penny Lane.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.


Part 4: Three reasons I don’t believe payday loans should be restricted in Waco.

by Lisa Dickison

(Note: This is Part 4 in a series on Pay Day lending and its effect on our Waco community. For the rest of the series, click here: Pay Day Lending in Waco. — ABT)

Reason 1: The label “predatory” for Payday loans is an exaggeration.

A predator in the animal kingdom is one that stalks and hunts its prey. The payday loan companies are not stalking customers and forcing them into the store. Customers freely enter. They don’t grab the customers’ hands and force them to sign. In spite of the stacks of pages they must sign, a transaction is very simple: to borrow this much, for this time period, you will pay this much in fees and this much total. “Predatory” is not an accurate description. Everything is in the open and not forced.

Reason 2: Restrictions on payday loans remove options from those who already have few options.

I have experience with this. I’m a customer of these places. Much less so now that I’ve learned to better handle money, but it has saved me a few times. Once, I needed a $700 car repair. I didn’t have the cash on hand, but I needed my car. That’s how I got to work. I’m fortunate now that I can work from home. Many people do not have that luxury. For many, if they can’t get to work, they will lose their job. Restricting access to a quick way to get money just exacerbates the problem. Banks no longer loan money in those small amounts. They certainly don’t loan money to those with poor credit. If these loan companies cannot make a decent profit, which is the goal of being in business, they will leave town leaving those who already have few options with even fewer options.

Reason 3: It’s not the proper role of municipal government.

Different levels of government are designed for different purposes. The purpose of local government is to provide basic services (roads, water, trash collection) and to make laws that make it easier to live together in communities. We have laws that require lawns be mowed so that our neighborhoods are not overrun with vermin. State laws govern traffic laws for the most part, but cities decide where to put traffic lights, stop signs, and other traffic control devices. Municipal governments should not protect residents from their own poor decisions.

Despite these opinions, I absolutely support a market-based alternative that is not funded by taxpayer dollars. I hope that the alternative being proposed works and is sustainable. It may not totally replace payday loan providers, but it may give some relief to those who are in need of additional options to manage emergencies.

Lisa DickisonLisa Dickison is a local political activist who has lived in Waco more than half her life. Her passions are defending the Constitution, election integrity and protecting the right of the people to self-govern. She is Republican Precinct Chair for Precinct 29.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

New Year’s Resolutions for College Students

By Diego Loredo

It’s almost 2016 and it’s about that time of year where everyone starts to think of some New Year’s resolutions. I personally don’t make any because I usually don’t end up sticking to them, but this time it’s different. These are really my own personal New Year’s resolutions for college but some of them (or all of them) can apply to other students in college.

The struggle has been real this semester. I moved into an apartment and took tougher classes. The fact that I was in an apartment meant that I didn’t have the luxury of being on campus. That resulted in me, more often than I should have, skipping class because I didn’t want to drive or take the bus to campus. My grades also went down a bit because of the tougher classes I took. So I decided that I would create several New Year’s resolutions that I would, hopefully, stick too for my 2016 spring and fall semesters.

Don’t take 8 am classes!

This semester I learned just how hard going to 8 am classes can be. I am not a morning person and waking up at 7 to get ready for my 8 am classes was harder than I thought it would be. I took one my first semester, but I was living on campus so that made it easier to go to class. However, this semester I was in an apartment that was 15 minutes away from campus. Because of that, I would often choose to sleep in (which resulted in my grades going down). Unless you have to or you’re a morning person, I would avoid taking 8 am classes.

Save money

It doesn’t have to be a lot at once, but it would help to have a little savings in case of any emergencies. Maybe put in $10 or $20 a week. It doesn’t sound like much but eventually it’ll add up. This will come in handy whenever something comes up. My car broke down earlier this year and I had no money saved up that I could use to pay for it. I ended up borrowing money from my mom, which I later paid back. Let’s face it, we’re always going to run into something unexpected. Having some money saved up will be a huge help.

Work out more

I definitely need to do this. I gained weight my first three semesters and really am not as fit as when I was in high school. I worked out for a bit my second semester but then stopped. I play soccer every now and then but that isn’t enough to get back in shape. So next semester I’m going to try to work out more. Working out can also be a good stress reliever for college students. Lifting weights or going for a run can help free your mind from any worries. Eating healthier can also make you more productive throughout the day.

Step out of your comfort zone

Yes I know, everyone says this, but it’s true! We all need to do this. I never really did that my first three semesters and I need to change that. For others, this can mean attending events on campus, joining new organizations, or just introducing yourself to others on campus or in class. For me, it’s going to the gym to work out more. Like I said before, this is something I need to do. The more I do it, the quicker I become comfortable going.

Don’t procrastinate!

This will be the most difficult New Year’s resolution for me. I love to push things off until the last minute. Instead of writing that essay that’s due in a few days, I would just take a nap. This is a really bad habit of mine and I’m sure it’s the same for other college students. We all procrastinate, but we can also control it. Now I’m not saying to finish your work the day it’s assigned. Start out small, plan to finish your assignment a week or a couple days before it’s due to allow some time to look over it and make sure you can turn in your best work. It’s okay to procrastinate a little every now and then, but I need to try to keep it to a minimum.

I’ll be honest, I hate New Year’s resolutions. I never stick to them and I think they’re a waste of time. But this time, I figured that I would give it another try. I think the reason why most people don’t stick to their resolutions (myself included) is because we all make these unrealistic goals for ourselves that we usually give up on a week into the New Year. I think that these resolutions that I made are realistic enough for a guy like me to achieve, and hopefully for others to achieve as well. No matter what your New Year’s resolutions are, hopefully you’ll stick to them throughout the year! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

diego loredo - 2Diego Loredo is a sophomore at the University of North Texas. He is majoring in public relations. He graduated from University High School in 2014. Although he is still not quite sure what exactly he wants to do, he thinks he wants to work somewhere in sports PR (preferably soccer or college football). His hobbies include playing soccer and golf. He is 19 years old.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Thanks Waco Voters – for Recognizing our Potential and Investing in our Future!

by Kaleigh Huser

As a junior in high school, I am sorting through those “next step” questions about what type of career I will pursue and where I will attend college. When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher; I also considered marine biology. As of today, I have abandoned the idea of becoming a professional violinist, but you never know. I very much enjoy theatre and music, and while I can’t say for sure where my interests will lead, I know that I am going to college. I have always known that even if it means drowning in student loans… college is my future. Thanks to Waco voters, I don’t have to worry as much about the student loans. With the approval of the Tax Ratification Election (TRE) I can enroll in classes that will allow me to earn college credit while in high school at no cost to me or my mother.

Prior to this year, high school juniors and seniors were limited to two dual credit classes per semester. The Texas Legislature passed new laws that lifted the limits on the number of dual credit classes a high school student can take and opened up dual credit for underclassmen. This means that incoming freshmen can even get an associate’s degree while in high school should they chose to do so.

I like the structure of the dual credit classes. Expectations are clear, and we are getting experience with college systems. I use Blackboard for notes, grades, handouts, projects, and pretty much everything. I don’t use my planner anymore, because it is all on my phone. When I am talking to my friends who go to school at University of Texas, it feels good to know that I am doing a lot of the same things that they are. When I get there, I will be better prepared thanks to the dual credit experience.

While some high school students qualified for a tuition waiver, my family and many others paid the full MCC tuition. Financial aid is not available for high school students, so taking a full slate of courses can become very expensive over the four years of high school. Next year, I plan to take three to four dual credit classes each semester, which will equal almost three thousand dollars over the school year. With the tuition waiver for all Waco ISD students, I can take the classes without worrying about the financial pressure, and I will enter college with 24 to 30 hours already paid for. If I go to UT, a year of tuition is $9, 346. We are so blessed to have this opportunity! I have friends who do not attend school in Waco ISD, and they are attending the same dual credit classes that I am.   They are responsible for tuition, which sometimes limits their options.

If you voted to have your taxes raised or worked to get the TRE passed, thank you for your generosity. I am not just speaking for myself when I say we are honored that you recognized our potential and voted to invest in our future.

Kaleigh Huser-2Kaleigh Huser is a junior at Waco High School. She is an active member of the Theatre Company, Show Choir, A Capella choir, National Honor Society, and Advanced Academics Student Advisory Board and she plays the violin. Kaleigh is ranked among the top five students in her class, and she spends every waking hour at Waco High or working on projects for classes at Waco High.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.


Part 3: Pay Day Lending and the Role of Local Government

by Jim Coston

(Note: This is Part 3 in a series on Pay Day lending and its effect on our Waco community. For the rest of the series, click here: Pay Day Lending in Waco. — ABT)

I had the privilege of serving as a City Councilman in Trenton, New Jersey, prior to coming to Waco. Despite what the national media may portray, the real action is in local politics. It is here that good government can offer immediate relief to citizens, foster opportunity and right wrongs. I believe the proposed ordinance to provide common sense regulation to the predatory lenders in Waco (also known as payday and auto-title lenders) will do all three.

As a former politician who drafted and passed legislation, I know that every ordinance produces unintended consequences. This is a given. And proponents like myself will bear some responsibility to respond to those unforeseen repercussions. Absolutely.

The fear of unintended consequences should not hinder or prevent our leaders from governing with purpose, that is from legislating intended consequences. It is these intended consequences that deserve some attention.

There are many fine details to the ordinance. I read it as having three main benefits for Waco and its citizens. The first requires each payday or auto-title lender to register with the City and to provide the names of its owners. This may seem a small matter; however, transparency is not one of the hallmarks of this industry. Knowing who is operating where can only serve the public good.

The second benefit concerns terms of lending offered to consumers. Payday lenders may not lend more than 20% of a consumer’s gross monthly income; auto-title lenders may not lend more than 70% of the value of an automobile. This provision should keep consumers from getting over-extended and stuck in a cycle of increasing debt. Furthermore, 25% of all payments must go towards reducing principals. Typical predatory lending practices keep the principal intact even as customers pay more and more in monthly fees. Those fees increase and accelerate, leaving the principal intact.

The third benefit requires these lenders to provide customers with information on available consumer credit counseling. Emergencies happen. People get sick. Cars need repairs. Unexpected expenses arise. There is a need among a portion of Waco citizens for access to capital on short notice. Predatory lenders provide this…service. Consumer credit counselors can do the same, with far less short and long term pain.

When this ordinance passes—I have faith in our municipal leaders—predatory lenders will still make a profit. Well and good. Waco citizens will still have access to quick capital. Well and good. But Wacoans will have options and far more favorable terms.

For some background on this industry, its origin, business model, connections to big banks as well as oft-cited talking points from predatory lending proponents, I refer you to Broke U.S.A. by Gary Rivlin. Be forewarned, it requires a strong stomach; the author provides in excruciating detail how this industry preys upon the poor, downtrodden and most vulnerable in society.

I have the privilege of serving as the Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church located at 18th and Bosque in the Sanger-Heights neighborhood of Waco. Calvary is located only a few blocks from Waco Drive; and thus, only a few blocks from multiple predatory lending establishments. I come at this issue not from political or social concerns. I care about this matter because of my faith in and following of Jesus Christ.     Karl Barth, the pre-eminent theologian of the 20th century, noted that the confession “Thy kingdom come” is the most radically political statement one can make. God’s kingdom will not have a place for payday or auto-title lending. It will have ample supply of mercy, grace and justice.

For some background on the divine abhorrence of usury, I refer you the Bible. With only slight exaggeration, you would be hard pressed to find a page within the sacred writ that does not speak of God’s protection over the poor, downtrodden and those most vulnerable in society, and corresponding judgment upon predators and those who do not seek their safety and justice alike. That protection is not reserved for some far off time or far off place. Followers of God are called to work for the redemption of those in need, and their predators, here and now. Passage of this ordinance is one means of declaring “Thy kingdom come!”

Jim costonJim Coston is Pastor to Calvary Baptist in Waco, husband to Julie, dad to Justin, Chloe and Samantha and ranch hand to his family’s chickens, goats and dogs.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.