Among the recent wave of meal delivery companies shipping to nearby doorsteps, one stands out for its ties to Maine and its organic, vegan menu. MamaSezz was launched last year by Maine native Meg Donahue and her wife, Lisa Lorimer, former CEO of the all-organic Vermont Bread Company.

Lorimer retired in 2005 when she sold the large northeastern bakery to a private equity firm. She wasn’t looking for a new business, Lorimer said. However, she and Donahue, who’d recently had a baby, say they were propelled into this career by a sense of social responsibility.

“There’s a need out there to get this food and message out to the people,” Lorimer told me by phone. “It is changing people’s lives.”

The urgency in Lorimer’s voice comes from personal experience.

Six years ago Donahue’s mother, Millie, was referred to hospice care in Scarborough for end-stage congestive heart failure. Soon after, Lorimer and Donahue moved her to their home in Vermont, intending to make her comfortable during her final days.

“She was so sick,” Donahue recalled when we spoke by phone. “The medics were at the house regularly reviving her. I was making biweekly calls to my siblings saying, ‘This is it. You have to come.’ ”

Everything changed when a Google search turned up information about treating congestive heart failure with a plant-based diet.

“I started feeding her smoothies because eating a salad took too much energy, she was that weak,” Donahue said. “I made green smoothies, adding hemp and chia for a little extra oomph.” As her mom began to eat more, Donahue began feeding her plant-based soups.

Millie Donahue, now 86, told me by phone that her memories of this time aren’t very sharp, yet she does remember the severity of her illness and the fact that walking five feet to the bathroom was nearly impossible.

“I was very sick, and I couldn’t eat anything,” Millie said. “I knew I was going downhill. I didn’t think I could even get out of bed.”

The switch to plant-based food made all the difference, both mother and daughter confirm.

“She gradually stabilized over a year,” Donahue said. “She kept getting better and better.” Today, Millie swims four times a week, drives herself wherever she needs to go and says, “I feel 100 percent better.”

Witnessing such a transformation at close range had a profound impact on the couple, causing Lorimer, Donahue and their daughter to adopt a vegan diet. Yet they faced a challenge familiar to many families: How to get the food they wanted on the table fast.

Not only did they want it to be vegan but they wanted it to be gluten-free and plant-based, meaning no added oils, refined sugars or preservatives. They couldn’t find a meal delivery company that met all their needs.

“We’re all busy and we want to cook this way, but it takes a lot of time,” Donahue said. “We wanted to make it super easy. To lower that bar to entry” for people interested in trying out a plant-based diet.

So they founded MamaSezz. Along the way Donahue picked up a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University’s T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, and Lorimer used her skills and contacts from the bakery days to get the food business up and running.

Soon they were shipping prepared meals delivered fresh rather than frozen at a cost of less than $5 per meal. (Shipping is free on orders of $89 or more). Meals – all veganized comfort foods such as Millie’s Chili, Love It Loaf, Mac Attack Stack, Gardener’s Pie and Harvest Stew – are designed to be heated and enjoyed as is or incorporated into other dishes. For instance, suggested uses for the veggie loaf include cutting it into veggie burgers, crumbling it into a taco filling and adding it to spaghetti sauce.

Gardener’s Pie, a vegan version of shepherd’s pie, is one of the dishes available from MamaSezz.

As with everything vegan these days, the customers ordering from MamaSezz aren’t necessarily vegans. Laurie Fisher of Cumberland Foreside is a regular MamaSezz customer. She travels often and likes the convenience of ordering delivery meals when she is home in Maine. Before discovering MamaSezz, she tried many other delivery companies but said she “was mostly frustrated that healthy is defined so inconsistently. If the meal is saturated with salt or oil, for instance, it is not healthy.” Also, she was looking for a meal delivery company that uses organic food.

Then a friend told her about MamaSezz, and it checked all the boxes. Fisher describes the MamaSezz meals as “healthy, satisfying and full of flavor” and orders from them about twice a month. As a pescatarian who eats fish and eggs, Fisher often adds these to the vegan meals.

Joy Russell of Providence, Rhode Island, is another regular MamaSezz customer who isn’t a vegan but is interested in eating vegetarian food because of her Christian faith. “As a single mom, I wanted easy food,” Russell said. “When I saw their site, I was amazed at the offerings. The prices are great and let me tell you for the food you get, it lasts.”

One of the recommended ways to serve the MamaSezz veggie loaf is as a veggie burger.

Each MamaSezz meal generally serves four, and will last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The box comes with a FedEx return label and packing tape, and customers return the box and packaging material (including all the food packaging) so MamaSezz can reuse and recycle it.

Business has been brisk, and the company just expanded its FedEx delivery range to the whole East Coast (as far south as Florida and as far west as Illinois and Alabama). MamaSezz recently opened a storefront in Brattleboro, Vermont; its production facility is in Keene, New Hampshire.

For her part, Millie Donahue continues to eat a plant-based diet that is mostly vegan (except for the occasional ice cream cone). Donahue, who grew up eating meat and potatoes in Fairfield, now looks at what her peers eat and the health challenges they confront and sees plant-based eating as the future.

“Every day I get up and plant these two feet on the floor and say, ‘Thank you dear God,’ ” Millie said. “I never in God’s world thought I would feel this good. I’m living rather than existing. There’s not enough time in the day to do the things I want to do.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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