That there are so many dietary cookbooks and numerous diet trends that change with every new fad or theory attests to the fact that we as humans have lost touch with what’s best to put into our bodies intuitively.
America has an ongoing love affair with potato chips, the number one snack in this country, and most of them made with less than optimum ingredients and unhealthy processing techniques. One local family restructured their lives and their diets in dealing with an ongoing health issue of one of its young members, and in the process developed a scrumptious organic potato chip they claim is more of a movement than a business. They named their homemade chip Jackson’s Honest Chips and it’s getting quite a bit of recognition nationally. “For years we were alternately flabbergasted and bemused by the breadth of snack foods that were fried in some unholy combination of highly processed and denatured polyunsaturated vegetable oils,” says Megan Reamer of the aptly named “Frankenfats.” She’s the mother of Jackson and creator of his Honest Chips. Because of their commitment to healthier foods for their four children, Megan and her husband, Scott, decided to make their own version using local organic potatoes and coconut oil— and Megan marveled, “Lo and behold, they tasted great, and our kids loved them!” When friends got a hold of the tasty treats, they convinced the family to go into production. The quest for health-appropriate food started about 10 years ago with their firstborn son. Jackson Reamer was born healthy and by two years of age was doing all the exploratory things toddlers do—walking and talking and laughing at those hidden wonders only beings his age recognize. But something inexplicable happened, Jackson started to develop some weakness in his feet. Over the course of the next 18 months the weakness spread up his small body and the toddler gradually lost gross and fine motor skills. From a mother’s point of view Megan relates, “I think you just have to keep on keeping on. Ten years ago, when all this started there was no internet data to search so we were going through clinical medical journals. We did a lot of research on our own. The whole time we were doing western medicine we were also seeing eastern medicine practitioners... all the alternative medicine stuff from herbalists to Reiki masters to acupuncturists both here and in Denver. A secondary complication was that his digestive tract was horrible,” although the family was eating very high quality organic food, Jackson’s digestive system was not absorbing it. “My husband has always been a freak about food, hyper-aware, and no additives, no coloring... he always read the labels and if there were any chemical compounds it would be ‘NO’.” The family started using traditional fats like beef tallow, lard and coconut oil. “Taking it back to that type of cooking is what this whole philosophy preaches and discusses. He started to get a little stronger, although he hasn’t regained motor functions. We just wanted to save his life and we started to see him stabilize,” Megan continued. She is certain the nutrients and unprocessed, old-fashioned method of food preparation helped Jackson to regain some of his strength. And this is how Jackson’s Honest Chips came into being. “The business we’re doing now begins and ends with Jackson because we’ve come full circle,” Megan smiles and explains, “As part of feeding him a traditional diet and giving him all his oils, by changing his diet we changed all of ours.” The family started making the potato chips as a healthy snack because they couldn’t find munchables made with anything except unhealthy vegetable oil. Now at age 11, Jackson’s health issue is an ongoing mystery and top specialist doctors are still baffled, unable to diagnose the cause of the condition that has him unable to move. The family has chosen to tell his story in a positive way through their healthy potato chip snacks and website. Megan states that the U.S. potato chip industry alone is a behemoth, cashing in on $10 billion annually from the “betcha can’t eat just one” feeding fervor. The Reamers felt that the large chip manufacturers, along with the snack industry in general, seemed to be ignoring the demands from a growing base of consumers for a more healthy snack and chip, and that led them to search for their own locally grown, non-GMO, organic tubers, which they buy just over Kebler Pass in Paonia and Hotchkiss. Many of the growers are the same ones who come weekly during the summer/fall Crested Butte Farmers Market. The Reamers then went in search for fair trade, organic coconut oil to cook the chips in, which are produced right in the Gunnison Valley. But Megan emphasizes, “We aren’t out to dominate the potato chip business—we will leave that to large multinational corporations that dominate the industry. Our goal is to make a great tasting potato chip in a healthy oil that respects the intelligence of our consumer and the efforts of our family farm suppliers.” By July 2012 they were in full swing and in local stores Mountain Earth and Gunnison Vitamin. “We were making them in the commercial kitchen at the Fred Field multipurpose room in Gunnison and later switched to a commercial kitchen in Crested Butte. We were just making them on an as-needed basis,” Megan explains. They started by frying up 400 pounds for the first month and people were munching them up like crazy. “They were selling out all the time. Word spread, and we started to sell them online on our own website. We only had a Facebook page, we didn’t do any advertising. So it was all word of mouth.” At that point the business exploded but they were still making all the batches by hand and it was getting difficult to keep up the stock. Then they got a last-minute notice from the Academy Awards a couple of weeks ago. Megan says, “They wanted our chips as a snack in the green rooms and dressing rooms as well as the executive and production offices for the performers, nominees and presenters. We were excited, having that in our back pocket,” Megan says, still astounded. But they also realized, “The next step is a manufacturing facility because we can’t meet the growing demands. We want to expand and we can’t take on larger venues, we can’t do any of that while still making them by hand.” They have since found a suitable facility in Denver they can partner with, using the same quality organic ingredients and cooking the chips to the same specifications using only the mandatory organic coconut oils. Meanwhile, Jackson is still undergoing a lot of testing. The family is awaiting word from the National Institute of Health to see if he’s been accepted into the Undiagnosed Disease Program. If Jackson is admitted into this exclusive program, they’ll travel to Bethesda, Maryland, where specialists will see if they can finally solve the case. “It’s worked as a last resort for people who’ve done what we’ve done and gone everywhere,” Megan says of their extensive trips to all the top medical facilities. She admits they don’t know if they’ll get an answer but adds optimistically, “It’s taking it to another level of testing.” Jackson’s Honest Chips will continue to educate, tell of his ongoing journey and make lips smack in a healthy way. “It’s not about taking over the chip world but educating people on traditional cooking, oils, and fats that are healthy for you. We started this with my son as the intention. It’s been a really positive way to tell his story,” Megan says. “The business we’re doing now begins and ends with Jackson because we’ve come full circle.” Megan smiles and explains, “As part of changing his diet we changed all of ours. It’s funny because many people don’t think that what they put into their body affects their health. The tides are turning. I think more people are recognizing that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the food label, it’s probably not something you should put in your body.”
For more information and the full story visit honestchips.com.