Local infant nutrition expert creates fresh baby food business | State

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Area parents now have an easy option for feeding their babies fresh, local food through Seedlings, a new business created by infant nutrition expert Dr. Jennifer Lefner.

A double board-certified neonatologist and pediatrician, Lefner recently founded Seedlings Baby Food, the first company of its kind in the Capital Region.

Produced and packaged within days of harvest, Seedlings baby food is made fresh with local and regional ingredients that are sustainably farmed and raised without the use of GMOs or rGBH. The food has no added salt, sugar or preservatives, and is cooked using methods that preserve the most nutrients.

“It’s a true farm-to-baby experience,” said Lefner, who in addition to her new entrepreneurial role is the chair of the department of pediatrics and chief of newborn medicine at Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Neonatology in Saratoga Springs.

The baby food, available in vegan and gluten-free options, is responsibly packaged in recyclable glass jars. The four-ounce meals can be enjoyed immediately, refrigerated for as many as three days, and frozen for as long as 3 months.

Through this endeavor, Lefner aims to provide babies with nutrition of the highest quality and freshness, helping them develop diverse palates and healthy eating habits throughout their lives.

“We all know that childhood nutrition has such a huge impact on later outcomes, both health outcomes and cognition outcomes,” Lefner said. “And we know that childhood nutrition is directly related to childhood obesity, which is related later on in life to cardiovascular health – and having this kind of nutrition early on definitely is a prevention aspect.”

Seedlings was established during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, Lefner, who made baby food for her own two children when they were small, saw the news of farmers having to throw away their unused product. Pairing her desire to support local farmers and her extensive knowledge of infant nutrition, she came up with the concept for Seedlings.

The company started production last fall, using local ingredients grown by 9 Miles East Farm in Northumberland. The baby food is also made at the farm’s 64 Excelsior Ave. cafe in Saratoga Springs, where customers can purchase it by the jar.

For added convenience, parents can have Seedlings delivered right to their door through the 9 Miles East meal subscription program, which offers delivery throughout the Capital Region and even as far as Boston. Production takes place on Sundays and home delivery occurs on Mondays.

The products change based on the produce that is available seasonally and fresh from the farm.

Currently available this summer are foods like carrots, blueberries, spinach, apples, sweet peppers and summer squash for babies in Seedlings Stage 1. This stage serves as an introduction to solid foods for babies aged four to seven months. Seedlings Stage 2, for seven- to nine-month-olds includes recipes featuring two to three ingredients with a greek yogurt or mushy oatmeal consistency, such as the Blueberry Lemon Chia Pudding with organic coconut milk. In Seedlings Stage 3, for children nine months or older, the food will contain three or more ingredients in a chunky texture with small bits of food, like the Baby Greek Chicken & Rice with lemon and oregano.

These nutritious, pediatrician-endorsed and baby-approved recipes have quickly become popular among Seedlings customers.

The next step for the business involves food safety testing through the Cornell Food Venture Center, which will help determine the shelf life of the products. This will also allow Seedlings to expand its menu options in the future.

Looking ahead, Lefner is extremely enthusiastic about providing the best possible food for babies and wants to focus on growing the company’s clientele and increasing production.

“I really believe that every baby should have the opportunity to have fresh food,” she said.

Eventually, Lefner envisions spreading Seedlings far and wide. She said, “My ultimate long-term goal is I would love to see Seedlings in a bunch of different communities around the country, focusing on local fare, local produce, local tastes and flavors.”

Seedlings baby food is priced at $4 to $6 per jar. Three-week starter packs are available as well.

More information about Seedlings Baby Food and its products is available online at www.seedlingsbabyfood.com.