What if your kids could learn the names of the U.S. presidents, the state capitals or how to speak Spanish by eating a snack?
They can, and it’s not some miracle brain food. It’s the brainchild of Dick and Jane who are on a mission to develop a passion for education in kids and help them eat right at the same time.
Their healthy snacks do just that.
Dick and Jane started the Dick and Jane Baking Company nine years ago after a light dawned on Dick. (They won’t share their last name because Dick and Jane is their brand.)
“Parents put a handful of Cheerios on their baby’s tray when they are learning to chew,” Dick says. “In preschool, parents teach their kids about animals with animal crackers.
“So then I wondered, when kids start going to grade school, where is the educational snack? It certainly isn’t Oreos or Nutter Butters.”
As he connected those dots he had an “aha” moment at his home office in Troy. That’s when he and Jane decided to take his revelation to the next step — the Dick and Jane Baking Company.
“Holy smokes! I thought. That’s a big idea,” he says.
Today, Dick & Jane Educational Snacks help kids learn and eat right. Dick runs the baking company and Jane is a first grade teacher.
The snacks are all natural and nut-free and there are kosher versions. They have a one-year shelf life and are not perishable. They help kids learn:
- U.S. states and their capitals
- The names of U.S. presidents
- Words in Spanish and English
- About Food and nutrition
- About Fun and fitness
Dick and Jane are planning to ultimately build out the library to 12-15 editions.
This spring they’ll launch a new section in Food and Nutrition called Farmer’s Market. It’ll show kids where foods come from. This coming summer they’ll roll out Animals and Sounds, Letters and Words and People, Places and Things for preschoolers.
They also plan to add U.S. history and world history as well as sign language in the future.
Here’s a little detail about how the snacks teach.
The snacks about the states have the name of the state, its capital and a picture of the state.
The President’s snacks have the name of all 45 presidents, his picture and the number indicating their number.
Dick says parents with autistic children have told him the president’s snacks are helping their children learn. They believe it could be the faces and putting the presidents in chronological order that is so interesting to them.
“Tactile learning is helpful for them,” Dick says.
Spanish to English snacks have a picture of the subject along with its name in Spanish and English.
Food and Nutrition snacks have the name of the food, its picture and whether it provides energy, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals or other essentials.
Fun and Fitness snacks show activities that can be enjoyed alone or with a friend, such as yoga, canoeing, basketball and even rock climbing.
“If kids start to ask new questions about each state, president, language, food and activity, we are doing our job,” Dick says.
Here’s how it all started.
Dick and Jane met a Michigan State University when they were just 19 years old. They were sophomores and both lived in McDonald Hall.
One day Jane walked by Dick’s room looking for the pizza delivery guy. The door was open so she poked her head in and asked if he’d seen him. Dick said no.
Jane spotted some frosted cookies Dick’s roommate’s mom had just sent and asked for one. His roommate said no, but Dick said, “Of course you can.”
“It was the best move I ever made,” he says. “We have been together ever since.”
They married, raised four children, have a dog named Starbucks and created the bakery.
“Part of who we are is that we have been together for a long, long time,” says Dick, who was an advertising major at MSU. Jane was an education major.
They also have entrepreneurship and a passion for education in their blood. Jane’s mom was a home economics teacher and her dad was a school counselor. Dick’s dad was an entrepreneur.
In creating the baking company, Dick and Jane also drew from that background and the challenges Jane experienced in her classroom – keeping kids engaged and providing healthy snacks.
“We combined what we knew about how distracting sugary snack options are in the classroom to create a snack that promotes values like curiosity and focused attention on learning new subjects,” says Jane. “Each individual snack includes both sight words and pictures.”
Today, Dick and Jane’s Educational Snacks are served in more than 1,000 public schools across the country, in classrooms, daycare centers, for educational holidays and to families as after school snacks. They are working with Detroit schools in a limited fashion.
Dick and Jane’s long-term plan is to work directly with teachers.
That can be difficult in Michigan where there are 899 school districts, according to Michigan Department of Education. Dick says each district buys for its own district, “so it is difficult to get traction.”
That led them to start selling in Florida where school purchases are made by county and one person makes the buying decision. “They can buy by the truckload,” Dick says.
The snacks are also sold through Amazon, which works with Dick and Jane to get their products to the warehouses with the most demand for their product. Right now, the customers are 80 percent women between the ages of 26-54.
Dick says they will never open up a store. They see online as the way of the future and want to be part of that business.
“We didn’t start out easy,” says Dick. “It always starts hard. But we really believed in what we were creating and how it could make an impact on teachers, kids and parents. What we ended up with was a snack with more substance, something that kids could grow up with and parents could use to teach with from a young age.
“I love what I do. It is fun to be Dick and Jane. We are real people with a real passion for education,” he says.