Revolution Foods is doing something that many schools think is impossible--providing fresh, healthy, organic, and delicious lunches to low-income students. The for-profit company is driven by a social mission to improve the eating habits of school children throughout the country, and delivers meals to approximately 120,000 youth every day.
There have been many critiques of the new National School Lunch Program (NSLP). A common criticism is that healthy foods are often unfamiliar and therefore simply not palatable to children. At the very least, in order for school meals to fit the new guidelines and be appealing and satisfying to students, a larger budget for abundant produce and hiring professional chefs is needed.
Revolution Food co-founders Kristen Saenz Tobey and Kristin Groos Richmond remember overcoming the naysayers as the first major challenge the company had to face during its initial stages in 2005. Most of the pessimistic feedback regarding appealing and healthy school lunches came from adult educators and parents. On the company website, Tobey recalls the company’s response:
“We went straight to the source: the kids. We asked kids, “What do you like? Would you be open to trying new things?” We discovered they were remarkably open, as long as the food tasted good and was presented in an appealing way. That reality- discovered only by ignoring the naysayers and speaking directly to the population we were trying to serve- guided everything we did from then on.”
Revolution Foods formed partnerships early on with small farms, as well as bulk suppliers such as Whole Foods; this helped to keep ingredient cost affordable, so school meal budgets did not have to grow in order to produce healthy meals. Also, the company saves money by cooking all meals from scratch, not long before the time they will be eaten. This schedule allows Revolution Foods to avoid serving anything fried or products containing high fructose corn syrup. Additionally, there are fresh fruits and vegetables in every meal, and fresh ingredients are organic.
In a blog post, Groos Richmond shares that Revolution Foods' schools “from New York to New Orleans” have reported better student concentration and academic performance overall, as well as an increased rate of student participation in the school meal program. A number of public schools who actively involved students in designing the new healthy lunch menus have experienced similar results.