Meet the Afro-Latina developing a food delivery service for low-income communities with dietary restrictions in Philly
Benzii Diaz hopes to have an app for her small business out soon.
Benzii Diaz, the founder of Bodied Mealz on Wheelz, grew up in North Carolina eating certain comfort foods, such as fried chicken and smothered pork chops.
She enjoyed the classic Southern dishes, but often felt sick and her health took a spiral.
Diaz finally changed her food habits when she started getting severe headaches, nausea, and unbearable stomach aches.
Despite doctors brushing it off as heartburn or acid reflux, her husband began to have the same symptoms.
“Some of my dietician friends asked if I ever thought about going vegan or cutting out milk and cheese,” Diaz said in a recent interview with AL DÍA News.
With that in mind, Diaz tried gluten- and dairy-free products. In place of regular milk, she would be drinking almond milk.
The results were almost immediate.
“The next day I didn't feel nauseous or sick,” she said. “It was weird, but I kept telling myself to keep on doing this.”
In the process, she developed an idea to provide healthier food resources for lower-income families, and created Bodied Mealz on Wheelz. The business started as Diaz saw a significant demand increase for gluten-free products amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Suddenly almond milk, oat milk, and other specialty products were off the shelves at a rapid pace.
“My husband and I didn't have the necessary products that we used for our diet,” said Diaz. “Food shortages were happening at our local grocery stores, and that was a problem.”
Instead of heading to her usual grocery store of ShopRite, Diaz went to Whole Foods, but was stunned when she saw the prices for non-dairy, keto-friendly products.
She soon found ALDI and its own affordable line of products.
At this juncture, Diaz knew she wanted to create a small business that would offer healthier food alternatives to low-income families who required a special diet.
Diaz, who is a personal trainer, began taking her clients to the grocery store and showing them the significant benefits of eating a healthier diet.
“I started asking different questions, like how many meals do you cook a day? What does your family typically eat? And I showed them better substitutes,” she said.
For instance, Diaz suggests swapping almond flour or coconut flour in place of all-purpose flour to fry chicken.
“There is also peanut oil, avocado oil to cook with,” she said.
So far, she is resorting to fundraising to support Bodied Mealz on Wheelz.
Soon, Diaz plans on purchasing a van that will transport groceries. The van will also double as a transport vehicle for female-identifying clients who don't have access to transportation.
She plans on having an app for the business completed by the end of the year.
“Right now, I have a questionnaire attached to my Instagram profile that customers can click on if they are interested in my services,” she said.
The questions are for Diaz to get familiar with her customers' eating habits and dietary restrictions.
“Then I follow up with them individually and ask them what is their income, what is their biggest roadblock?” she said.
Diaz then does the grocery hauls and charges her customers a fraction of what grocery stores would initially charge.
Diaz hasn't fully developed her app just yet, but she is also hoping that people can see an Afro-Latina starting her own business.
“It is important for me to show different people that we can become successful and have ideas,” she said.