FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application is based on and claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/292,555, filed May 22, 2001.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention concerns a kit of prepared foodstuffs suitable for consumption by infants and toddlers.
Infants, as well as toddlers, have special dietary needs which are not easily or conveniently met when traveling. While adults and older children are readily accommodated in restaurants, parents must often bring considerable supplies of suitable “baby” food with them for their infant or toddler. Bringing such extra supplies can be burdensome, especially when significant baggage is already being carried by the parents. Furthermore, there are no convenient facilities readily available while traveling where infant and toddler food may be prepared, refrigerated or heated if necessary. This can lead to significant wastage, requiring extra food be carried to compensate for the wasted portions.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Preparation of infant and toddler meals is also a task in daycare centers where meals are often served to groups of children. If the burden and time required for preparing such meals could be reduced, it would have beneficial consequences in that a more complete and balanced meal could be served faster to more children by a smaller staff.
The invention concerns a kit of prepared foodstuffs suitable for an infant's or toddler's meal. The kit contains a fruit serving, a vegetable serving, a cereal serving and a liquid serving. The servings are conveniently contained in packaging adapted for grouping the fruit, vegetable, cereal and liquid servings together.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The invention also concerns a method of providing a kit of prepared foodstuffs suitable for an infant's or toddler's meal. The method includes the steps of packaging a fruit serving, packaging a vegetable serving, packaging a cereal serving and packaging a liquid serving and including the servings together in packaging to form a kit.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a prepared meal kit according to the invention;
FIG. 2 is a cut-away perspective view of another embodiment of a prepared meal kit according to the invention; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PRESENTLY PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 3 is a flow chart describing a method for providing a meal kit according to the invention.
FIG. 1 shows a prepared meal kit 10 according to the invention. Meal kit 10 is designed to provide a complete infant's meal and is packaged using a tray 12 having a plurality of wells 14 holding various foodstuffs. The tray may be comprised of a variety of materials, including paper, metal foil or plastic and is preferably made of molded plastic of sufficient rigidity and robustness to allow the kit to endure rough handling and be conveniently used to serve the meal, yet also be inexpensive enough to be disposable. The foodstuffs preferably include a fruit serving 16, a vegetable serving 18 and a cereal serving 20. For infants, the fruit and vegetable servings are preferably pureed, sized between 2-4 ounces and may be such baby food staples as apple sauce, pears, peas, carrots or sweet potatoes to cite a few examples. The cereal serving, also preferably 2-4 ounces, is preferably a rice-based cereal but could also be oatmeal or some other grain-based foodstuff.
Preferably, the wells 14 are capped by lids 22 which seal the contents against moisture, air and other contaminants. The lids are readily removable by hand and may take many forms but are preferably heat sealed membranes, such as metal foil or flexible plastic which are removably adhered to the tray surface 24.
In addition to the pureed food servings 16 through 20, a liquid serving 26 is also included in the meal kit. For infants, the liquid serving 26 is preferably infant formula, which may be provided in powdered form and mixed with water provided in a container 28. Alternately, liquid formula may be packaged in container 28, the formula being poured into a baby bottle supplied by the parents. The liquid serving may also be prepackaged in a disposable baby bottle 30 included with the kit. The liquid serving is preferably 4-6 ounces.
A baked food item, such as a teething biscuit 32, may also be included in the kit. Like the pureed servings, the baked food item is preferably contained in its own sealed well 14 within the tray 12.
The meal kit 10 may also include utensils such as spoon 34 for serving the pureed food items. Such utensils are also preferably made of molded plastic and are disposable with the tray after the meal has been consumed. For further convenience, clean-up items 36 are provided with the kit. The clean-up items may include napkins 38, a bib 40, pre-moistened towels 42, tissues 44 and various other products useful for handling the inevitable mess which is part of an infant's feeding. Lastly, a toy, such as a rattle 46, may also be part of the meal kit according to the invention. Other examples of a toy might be a book, a puzzle, a plush toy, an action figure, any of which may serve as a thematic or promotional advertisement or tie-in to other products, events or services including television programs, motion pictures, special occasions such as holidays, birthdays or charitable events or causes.
FIG. 2 shows another embodiment of a prepared meal kit 50 according to the invention. Kit 50 is an example of a toddler's meal and illustrates an alternate form of packaging for organizing the kit contents. It is understood that the embodiments of both the infant's and toddler's meal kits described are examples only and are not indicative of any preferred packaging arrangement associated with either meal kit.
Kit 50 differs little in its contents from kit 10 and includes a fruit serving 52 (preferably 4-6 ounces), a vegetable serving 54 (preferably 4-6 ounces), a cereal 56 (preferably 4-6 ounces) and a liquid serving 58 (preferably 4-8 ounces). The servings are, however, adapted to an older child in that the fruit and vegetable servings may comprise chunk or whole fruit and vegetable items, the cereal serving may be a commercially available dry grain-based product such as toasted oats and the liquid serving may be a fruit juice or milk. In certain embodiments, a pasta serving may be substituted for one of the servings or provided as an additional serving. The meal kit 50 may also include a baked item 60 in the form of a cookie or cracker, utensils such as a spoon 62, clean-up products 64 including napkins, a bib, pre-moistened towels and the like and a toy 66.
Meal kit 50 is packaged in a box 68, and the servings of fruit, vegetables and cereal 52, 54 and 56 respectively, are preferably provided in individual respective containers 70, 72 and 74. Containers 52 and 54 holding the fruit and vegetable servings may be jars, cans or membrane sealed containers or pouches. Container 74, holding the cereal serving 56, is preferably a disposable paperboard or plastic bowl sealed with a membrane 76 to keep its contents fresh and uncontaminated. The liquid serving 58, juice or milk being preferred, is held in a convenient box or carton container 78.
FIG. 3 is a flow diagram showing the steps for providing a kit of prepared foodstuffs suitable for an infant's or toddler's meal. The steps include packaging a fruit serving, packaging a vegetable serving, packaging a cereal serving, packaging a liquid serving and then packaging the servings together to form the kit. The packaging need only meet the requirements that it be inexpensive, disposable and seal the food contents to keep them fresh and uncontaminated. However, it is preferred that the packaging also serve an eye-catching, advertising, brand-identifying function and, thus, be a suitable vehicle for the display of indicia and other graphic devices such as company trademarks, logos and images such as cartoon characters, thematic scenes or symbols, as well as for the display of educational presentations. Thus, the packaging may also be used to strengthen any promotional aspects or tie-ins which are associated with the meal kit. Such promotional or display functions may also be extended to the clean-up items wherein the napkins, bibs and other items may be similarly used to display graphics or indicia consistent with the themes displayed on the packaging.
The prepared meal kit according to the invention provides convenience and advantage to parents traveling with children as well as institutions, such as daycare centers, where significant numbers of meals need to be prepared for infants and toddlers. The kit provides a complete, balanced, nutritional meal which requires no preparation other than opening of the packaging. The portion sizes are tailored for a single meal, thus, reducing waste. The packaging is disposable, eliminating significant clean-up chores. The kit can be packaged to have a relatively long shelf life without the need for refrigeration and, thus, can be easily stocked by restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores.