Carnegie Mellon University
January 13, 2014

CEE Alum Promotes Healthy Lifestyles with LunchBots

CEE Alum Promotes Healthy Lifestyles with LunchBots

Jacqueline Linder's big idea came to her when she was packing her lunch. The CEE alumna left her career in the high tech industry and founded LunchBots, a company that produces plastic-free food containers for people on the move.Jacqueline Linder's big idea came to her when she was packing her lunch. The CEE alumna left her career in the high tech industry and founded LunchBots, a company that produces plastic-free food containers for people on the move.

CEE alumna Jacqueline Linder (BS CE ’88) always knew she was going to lead a company, but wasn’t sure what type of company it would be. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Carnegie Mellon, Linder completed a master’s degree at MIT and then worked for a number of years as an engineer in the high-tech industry of California’s Silicon Valley. That’s when she began to think about the lack of plastic-free food containers on the market. “I became concerned about the chemicals in plastic, which have been shown to leach into the food stored in them,” she explained. “And at the time, there were new stainless steel water bottles entering the market, but there were really no plastic-free food containers. I pack my lunch for work, and my kids take lunches to school, and so I found myself looking for a product that didn’t exist in the U.S.”  

In 2009, Linder launched LunchBots, a company based in Palo Alto, CA that produces insulated and leak-proof stainless steel food containers. “The focus of the company is to inspire people to live a healthier lifestyle for themselves and for the planet, and that’s what drives our products and our decisions,” she explained. “I started LunchBots to provide a healthy and easy alternative for people taking food to go, but also to encourage them to actually pack their own food, because it allows you to lead a healthier lifestyle.” She noted that LunchBots is one component of the growing consumer movement to raise awareness of food quality and sources. “What we’re doing at LunchBots is an extension of that awareness.”

Linder credits her time at CEE with giving her the confidence to enter a new industry. “Without the experiences that I had in CEE, I’m not sure I would have started LunchBots,” she said. “When I started the company, I didn’t have experience in many of the areas I work in now—direct manufacturing, e-commerce—but from my experience at CEE, I knew I could figure it out. I was always able to learn what I had to and to be creative, resourceful, and hardworking—all of those great qualities that you develop in such a demanding program—and I think it really set the stage for me to have the confidence that I could do anything.” 

During her time at Carnegie Mellon, Linder grew close to the CEE community. In particular, she appreciated the time she spent with Dr. Paul Cristiano, former CIT dean, CEE head, and CMU provost. “Dr. Christiano was a real supporter of mine, and had a major impact in my life,” she said. “He believed in me before I believed in myself, so I have very kind memories of him.” 

These days, Linder is returning to Carnegie Mellon in a different role: her son Canaan is a freshman in CIT, and Linder has taken the opportunity to reconnect. “It has brought me back to the university, and it’s just a great feeling,” she said. “CMU is really the right place for him.”