Revolution Foods: Greener, Healthier School Lunches

Revolution Foods is a for-profit social enterprise that provides school districts and individual schools with healthy, delicious, and environmentally friendly school lunches.

Concern about the quality of school lunches has been growing for several years among parents, nutritionists, and food policy advocates. In 2009, a study found that most school lunches do not meet dietary guidelines for students, and in 2010, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who spearheaded an effort to bring healthier school lunches to his native Britain, starred in a reality show intended to raise more awareness of the problem in the United States.

Social entrepreneurs Kirsten Tobey and Kristin Richmond were already several steps ahead of the game. In 2006, the two women, both foodies with backgrounds in education and public health, founded Revolution Foods, a school lunch delivery business that focuses on nutritious and delicious meals for students and staff, many with organic, fair trade, or locally grown ingredients. Starting with just three schools in Oakland, CA, Revolution Foods now serves students in programs across California and in Colorado and Washington, DC. To date, Revolution Foods has served more than 3.5 million meals to nearly 40,000 students.

As a social enterprise, Revolution Foods’ mission statement emphasizes the change it wishes to create with its programs, including better health and nutritional standards for students and greater awareness of good nutrition and the importance of choosing fresh, organic, and local foods among both students and their parents. Revolution Foods strives to make its lunches accessible to all students, especially those in inner cities and other “food deserts,” where fresh, healthy foods can be hard to come by.

Revolution Foods complies both with USDA guidelines for school meal preparation, and with its own stricter standards, which include its “Never-Ever” ingredient standards: no artificial hormones or antibiotics in meat and dairy, no fried food, no trans fats or high fructose corn syrup, and no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. It uses many organic or fair trade ingredients, and partners with local providers whenever possible.

In addition to serving many organic and locally produced foods, Revolution Foods is also committed to reducing its environmental impact in other ways, such as composting food scraps and other kitchen waste, using energy efficient food storage containers and recyclable packaging, and printing menus and other educational materials on recycled paper with eco-friendly inks.

Recently, Revolution Foods also launched a line of healthy snack foods for kids. A percentage of the profits from these snacks goes to support the school lunch program so it can continue to expand to under-served areas.

Revolution Foods is a great example of a social enterprise that runs its business in accordance with the so-called “triple bottom line“: people, plant, profit. Kirsten Tobey and Kristin Richmond saw a niche that needed to be filled, and filled it in a way that improves the general welfare of the communities in which it operates and respects the well-being of the planet as well.

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