(Credit: Ben Franske)

Moving to college and living away from home for the first time can be tough. Students might miss their beds, their pets, their friends and family. But most of all, a home cooked meal made by Chef Mom or Dad.

Now three University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alumni are combatting the homesick blues with home-cooked meals. The startup, Home Food Today, delivers meals made by families in the Chicago area to downstate students.

Home Food Today will have three pick-up locations: Woodfield Mall, O’Hare Airport, and Oak Brook Center Mall. Parents leave a secure, spill-proof 12 x 12 x 9 cooler at a drop off location at a scheduled time (be sure to pack freezer packs to keep food fresh, the team advises). The Home Food Today team will then pick it up, drive seven hours south to the Urbana-Champaign campus, and drop it off at one of three highly populated residence halls. The cost? Just $10.

The idea came from Niraj Patel, Chris Shah, and Bogdan Ciuca, three U of I alums who remember the difficulty of eating away from the comforts and conveniences of home while in undergrad. In addition, Patel is a vegetarian, which limited his dining hall options.

“Most of our parents held full time jobs with busy weekends…and they did their best to visit us on campus,” said the team on their website “They would bring our favorite home foods and snacks and we would devour them within a day. We would share some with the rest of the friends whose parents were unable to come.”

“Homemade meals prepared by my mom gave me that warm, comfy feeling of a security blanket,” Patel said to USA Today. “Just the smell and taste would induce happy memories of home.”

Often students living away from home resort to eating at restaurants for comfort, a habit that can cause health and financial strains. Everyone knows of the notorious “freshman 15” weight gain, and part of that is due to the extra 137 calories per day people consume when they eat out rather than at home, according to a Johns Hopkins study. Plus, eating out is one of the top three ways students waste money, according to Fidelity.

This service also saves money for mom and dad: an overnight package on UPS or FedEx can cost upwards of $60.

Delivery will start off weekly– just on Sundays– and begin May 3. Initially, the service is just available for U of I students, but the team said it could be a model for expansion.

“We will not achieve the old cliche, ‘the family that eats together… [stays together],” said the team on their website. “But we will help your family eat ‘well.'”

Sign up for the service is available at the Home Food Today website.

(Image credit: Creative Commons via Ben Franske)