For Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram, helping raw foodists feed the habit is all in a day’s work.
“Thursday’s child has far to go,” says the old nursery rhyme, and Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram ’09 is proof positive. For the founder and administrator of the Rawfully Organic produce co-op, Thursdays start at 6 a.m. as she works with area farms to order and pick up organic fruits and vegetables, sorts them along with produce from a local distributor, sells them to co-op members from her home in west Houston and then spends the rest of the day tying up loose ends and preparing for the following Thursday’s co-op.
Carrillo-Bucaram does it for love. “I have more than 800 people on my mailing list, and I fill 60 to 90 orders per week,” she said. “I don’t make one dollar off of it, but I don’t want to say I do it all for nothing because I’ve met the most amazing people through the co-op — people who have become like family.”
Participants join the co-op for the same reasons she started it in 2008: to enjoy fresh organic fruits and vegetables without paying retail prices. But for Carrillo-Bucaram, it was also a way to economically sustain a lifestyle that just may have saved her life.
While a junior in high school, she began to suffer from crippling dehydration, migraine headaches and vomiting. Diagnosed with hyperglycemia, she was hospitalized numerous times. Carrillo-Bucaram tried overhauling her diet by cutting out sugar and fruit and opting instead for chemically sweetened foods but found that her symptoms only grew worse. She lost so much weight that her classmates began to spread rumors about her “eating disorder,” and she missed so much school due to hospitalization that she was only one absence away from failing to graduate — despite being at the head of her class academically.
Then she met a vegetarian at a local health food store. A raw foodist who ate more than 10 pounds of fruits and veggies a day, he told her about his dietary lifestyle — known as raw foodism — in which participants eat only uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Although Carrillo-Bucaram was skeptical about the wisdom of a hyperglycemic gorging on fruit, she was desperate to feel better and decided to give it a try.
“After the first day, I felt okay — no vomiting and no migraines,” she said. She kept up the diet, eventually incorporating raw vegetables, and a week later realized that her hyperglycemic symptoms had disappeared completely. Now, almost four years after going raw, Carrillo-Bucaram hasn’t even had a cold.
Getting enough calories eating raw fruits and vegetables requires huge volumes of produce: An entire head of romaine lettuce contains only about 85 calories and a large banana about 100 calories.
Getting enough calories eating raw fruits and vegetables requires huge volumes of produce: An entire head of romaine lettuce contains only about 85 calories and a large banana about 100 calories. To sustain her raw food diet, Carrillo-Bucaram bought organic produce in bulk from local health food stores, but she was still spending upwards of $300 per week on groceries.
When she asked a local organic produce distributor about buying from them wholesale and learned that their minimum order was 40 cases, she knew it was time to start thinking big. She gathered 12 foodie friends interested in healthy eating, and together they split the first order. Word spread, the co-op grew — and the rest, as they say, is history.“I still pay for my own food, but I spend about $80 a week max,” Carrillo-Bucaram said. “There are some weeks when we have so much extra food that I don’t even have to pay, and we can donate surpluses to the Salvation Army, fire stations, underprivileged neighborhoods or local churches. It’s so much fun, and so much good comes out of it. It really is food that loves you back on every single level.”