Julie and Tony Bombacino initially wanted to help their son when they started Real Food Blends a few years ago. Not only have they helped him, but they're helping tube-fed people around the country with their company.
Real Food Blends provides 100 percent real food meals for children and adults who must be tube-fed. "It's a very rare opportunity to be able to create a business where you can provide financially for your family and to help (our son and other people)," says Tony Bombacino. "We see our son thriving now and enjoying the food," he says.
When their son AJ, who's now 5, began to experience problems with eating, Tony says it was just terrible to watch and wonder what the future would hold for him. "When our son couldn't eat, it was a very emotional experience," he says. The couple also are the parents of an older daughter, Luca Jane.
The Bombacinos, of Chesterton, co-founded Real Food Blends in 2012. Julie Bombacino says feeding tubes were virtually unknown to her years ago. "I never thought about what a feeding tube was until my son got one," she says. When AJ, who was born with brain malformations, had to be fed through a tube, Julie took time learning about how the tubes worked and everything about what was actually going into the feeding tubes. The food that's routinely prescribed for the tubes, she explains, is a type of formula. Tony says for years, people "had no other choice but to choose commercial formulas when it comes to eating."
AJ did not respond well to the formula, Julie says. "He did poorly on what was prescribed for the feeding tube. He was vomiting every day and constipated."
In a special blog post recently written by Tony, who comes from a family where food held a special place of enjoyment and bringing people together, he writes, "Imagine this guy who grew up living for food, loving to cook and wanting nothing more than to share the kitchen with his own son someday, being told that his son now had to be 100 percent fed through a feeding tube. I was still trying to process all the other stuff about my son's brain injuries and what his future may or may not be, and my love for food turned to anger over my son not being able to enjoy the great meals and memories I had as a kid."
With AJ not doing well on the traditional formulas for tubes, Julie began blending and mixing real foods to feed their son through his tube. She says once they started feeding AJ these meals, it was a whole new scenario. "He was a completely different kid," she says. His skin color looked better, he wasn't vomiting and didn't feel sick. The couple knew the quality ingredients and real food was the reason.
Their company actually came to be right after they planned a trip to Disney World and wondered how they were going to cart a blender and all the ingredients with them to engage in the process of making AJ's food. "We wondered if there was a pre-packaged, shelf-stable, blended real food meal option that we could buy and bring with us," Tony says.
They began to experiment with different recipes, and Real Food Blends was born. Their website describes the meals as having no corn syrup or preservatives, and no refrigeration is necessary. Among meals in the Real Food Blends roster are an orange chicken, brown rice and carrots meal; salmon, oats and squash meal; and quinoa, kale and hemp meal.