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Day care founded by Hall natives takes green to a new level
Organic meals, energy efficiency and eco-friendly cleaners are only part of this day care experience
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Executive chef Marlon Carpenter prepares a meal at FIO360. The center, founded by Gainesville native Crissy Klauss, features a green kitchen designed by Tim Horne, project manager with Food Service Equipment in Gainesville.

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FIO360 founder Crissy Klauss talks about planning the FIO360 kitchen for the kids' nutrional needs.

At FIO360, an eco-friendly early care center, organic wool rugs from New Zealand, chef-prepared organic meals and environmentally-safe cleaning products are just the beginning.

The green lifestyle that the child care center provides is one of a kind, according to founder Crissy Klauss, a Gainesville native.

"Our No. 1 focus here is doing the very best we can for the children," Klauss said.

Klauss opened FIO360 earlier this year in Atlantic Station in Atlanta with partner and vice president of operations Brett Radosta, who lives in Hall County. The duo opened the day care center with a goal to nurture and empower children while helping them become well-rounded in the process, according to the center's Web site.

Tim Horne, project manager with Food Service Equipment in Gainesville, was hired by Randall-Paulson architects to design an environmentally friendly commercial kitchen for FIO360.

To begin the project, Klauss and Radosta explained to Horne what they needed from the space.

"I said give me your square footage, show me where you plan on putting the kitchen, show me what your menus are and things like that," Horne said. "I put a package together as far as what equipment I believe needed to be used. I prefer electric cooking because they are not having to evacuate CO1 gases when you do use natural gas and I don't recommend fryers because you can do just as much with a steamer and a convection oven."

Horne also thought that more refrigeration space and less freezer space would suit FIO360.

"It came out to enough storage for them so they could get by with just one truck a week," Horne said. "That's another thing I always consider when making kitchens - you don't want to have grocery trucks going up and down the road all week long ... that is not fuel efficient. I want them to get one delivery and be able to store all you need and take care of your fresh vegetables."

FIO360's kitchen appliances are all energy rated, but Horne did say the commercial industry has been slower to provide energy-efficient products.

"The commercial industry is kind of slowly coming into that," he said. "They are not as efficient as some of the others; they might use a little more water than they need to, but for the most part they are set up to run on an efficiency basis."

The kitchen had to be designed for the chefs to prepare nutritionally-balanced meals for the children.

The organic meals are prepared each day by executive chef Marlon Carpenter and chef Gwen Ward. A daily menu might include pumpkin-bran muffins, strawberries, pineapple and milk for breakfast; turkey roll-ups for a morning snack; and chicken tetrazzini and a raspberry, mango and avocado salad with milk for lunch.

"We reached out to a nutritionist and created a diet for the children using organic foods and how to cook them," Radosta said. "These children are going to be in this environment eight to 10 hours a day, and this is really their home away from home. And we have a responsibility to improve their environment so that their experience is a home away from home."

Klauss added that providing the children with healthy and well-rounded menus was very important to her.

"With children we have the diabetes issues, the obesity issues, all the processed food and all the sugar," she said. "We just had a vision to go back to the way we ate up (in) Gainesville and North Georgia when we were growing up. We don't go to Costco and buy the 50-gallon drum of peaches, we have to get individual cans. The organics are not coming in bulk."

Each day the 50 children who attend FIO360 - ages infant to 4 - start with an affirmation, take yoga lessons and recycling classes. They end the day with a massage to help them sleep.

The eco-early care center used formaldehyde- and chemical-free mattresses, no PVC products, floors that emit radiant heat and environmentally-friendly cleaning products.

"We use Sustainable Earth Products," Radosta said. "They have a very good line of products, and they are a great resource for us because we wanted to use the best environmentally-friendly products that are on the market. And we found their products to be the best."

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