Among young people in the United States, the current state of food-culture and nutrition is bleak. Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years, and more than one-third of the nation’s kids are clinically overweight or obese. But through a sustainable business model, the organization Revolution Foods is tackling this challenge at one of the places where it starts: the school cafeteria.
The nutrition crisis is particularly urgent for low-income communities. A skewed commodities industry makes fast food cheaper and more readily available than whole food. And in a time of widespread state budget crises, the precedence of “cheap” over “nutritious” is especially visible in school lunches.
Revolution Foods brings healthy, delicious breakfasts, lunches, and after-school snacks to students in nine states. Seventy percent of Revolution Foods partners are charter schools, which largely serve young people from low-income neighborhoods.
Balanced meals are prepared using whole foods in nearby regional kitchens and delivered to schools daily; all meal expenses are covered under the federal school lunch reimbursement program.
Richmond developed Revolution Foods in partnership with chief innovation officer Kirsten Saenz Tobey. While the organization is a business, profit-maximization is far from its top priority. Success is instead measured according to how much it can reform education, agriculture, and nutrition.
Since its launch in San Francisco in 2005, Revolution Foods has achieved widespread recognition for its success: Just this month, the World Economic Forum nominated Revolution Foods co-founder and CEO Kristin Groos Richmond to its highly selective Young Global Leaders Program (YGL)—the latest in a string of successes for Revolution Foods.
Last year, the White House Council on Community Solutions nominated Richmond to its task force to help harness local resources to address social problems. In addition, Ashoka has appointed both Richmond and Tobey to its global fellowship of social entrepreneurs.
Only 192 YGLs were selected from an international pool of thousands of candidates, representing sectors as diverse as business, government, civil society, arts & culture, academia, media, and social entrepreneurs. Chosen through a strict selection process, all nominees are under the age of 40 and demonstrate proven commitment to serving society at large.
Richmond, an MBA from The Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, launched her storied career on Wall Street, where she worked as an investment banker at Citigroup. After about five years in finance, she made a radical change and relocated to Nairobi.
There, she co-founded the Kenya Community Center for Learning, one of East Africa’s first-ever special-education schools; today she remains an active board member. Upon returning to the States, Richmond served as the vice president of RISE, a nonprofit that works to recruit and retain quality public school educators, before partnering with Kobey to found Revolution Foods in 2005.
Photo: Eric Millette