When Jenny Rusnell and Andy Weaver decided to open a health food cafe in Elkhart on April 1, 2013, Rusnell says some people in her life thought it might be the greatest April Fools' Day prank she'd ever pulled.
But a year later, The Moringa Tree has proven to be a popular restaurant and resource for people in Elkhart and beyond looking for healthy food.
"A lot of people asked, 'what are you doing here?' They thought a place like this could only do well in a big city like Chicago," Rusnell said. "But people in Elkhart want alternatives. They want to know the truth about food and their health."
The Moringa Tree offers gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan food that is organic and unprocessed. Popular menu items include a grilled cheese sandwich on sprouted bread, taco salads topped with grass-fed beef and freshly made smoothies and juices.
"A lot of people come in because we can customize their food if they're diabetic, or if they have IBS or even if they have cancer," Weaver said. That's a need they didn't realize was so prevalent in Elkhart, but one they've been happy to provide.
Rusnell is also a certified nutritional counselor, natural health professional and medical massage therapist. She's certified in Body Works, Body Systems, detoxes and herbal remedies and is working on becoming a master herbalist and natural.
"People in Elkhart want alternatives. They want to know the truth about food and their health."
Because of that, she also schedules one-on-one appointments with customers who are looking to customize or change their diets, go on a detox or need other nutritional help. The Moringa Tree also puts together custom casseroles so that busy parents can serve healthy food at dinner without sacrificing a lot of time.
In the last year, one person they've helped in particular stands out to them. A woman came in with several health problems, including debilitating arthritis that kept her from painting and made walking up stairs painful. After a few visits, she finally was able to walk up the stairs to the door to The Moringa Tree with no pain. Months later, the woman was able to paint again—and she painted Rusnell and Weaver a picture to thank them for what they had done for her.
It now hangs in the cafe for everyone to see.
The first year flew by, and now Rusnell and Weaver are looking forward to the future. Rusnell hopes to branch out more and give more talks and teach more classes and seminars. She'd also like to go to local schools and teach children about nutrition and food too.
"I want to make the best possible food that tastes good," he said with a laugh.
The Moringa Tree will have giveaways, free samples and lunch and drink specials on Tuesday, April 1, to celebrate the one-year anniversary.
"We just want to thank everybody for their support the last year," Rusnell said. "For everybody who believes in us and sends prayers, thank you."
The Moringa Tree
300 E. Jackson Blvd., Elkhart
Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday