Revolution Foods

By Kristi Raube ||

At the local public school my children attended, kids had one of two lunches: a pre-ordered healthy lunch from a local vendor, or, if you qualified, a government-funded free lunch.  I’m not sure what was in the free lunch each day, but it wasn’t appetizing, especially compared to the fresh, healthy lunch for the kids whose parents could pay.  We were told that the local vendor couldn’t provide a healthy alternative for the government reimbursement of $2.80 (their lunches cost about $4). Not only did this 2-tier system stigmatize the children from less well off families, it also meant those kids were not eating as healthfully as their more well-to-do peers.

Enter Revolution Foods (www.revolutionfoods.com), started by two Berkeley-Haas alumnae while they were finishing their MBA degrees seven years ago. Horrified by the obesity epidemic in the country and the fact that 1 in 2 children from minority communities would develop Type 2 diabetes, these two determined women decided to “ignite a healthy food revolution”.  Kirsten Saenz Tobey and Kristen Groos Richmond set out to provide “kid-inspired, chef-crafted” healthy meals reimbursable by the US government’s free lunch program.  Seven years later, Rev Foods is in seven regions around the country, making 1 million meals a week, has created more than 1000 jobs, and has just launched a new retail line to provide an alternative to the additive laden “Lunchables” from Kraft Foods. (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-09-19/revolution-foods-takes-on-kraft-to-get-into-kids-lunchboxes)

On Friday, the two alums with the similar names were honored at the annual Haas Gala with the Leading Through Innovation award. Kirsten spoke in the school’s Dean’s Speakers Series last week, telling the story of how they have rocked the school food world.  Two take-aways:

Sometimes business and life happen at the same time: During the second year of their MBA studies, they agreed to follow their passions and drop out of the formal hunt for jobs.  During spring semester, they wrote a business plan, pitched investors, and drove toward their goal.  As Kirsten related, they knew they needed money by July if they were going to have time to buy food, hire chefs to prepare it, and trucks to deliver it by the time the academic year began in late August.  On MBA graduation day, Kristen was in labor with her first child while Kirsten negotiated the terms with their first investors.  And the money came in the week Kirsten got married.

How has the partnership lasted?  According to Kirsten, it’s like a marriage – you need to make sure you communicate. They have complementary skills and don’t try to take make a power grab (one is the CEO, the other is the Chief Impact Officer ).  They are both moms and have strong work ethics. This year, they made by Fortune magazine’s “40 under 40” list (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/40-under-40/2013/full_list/).

Revolution Foods means that children eating a federally-funded free lunch can receive meals that are as delicious and healthy as those for more well-to-do children. (Nearly 80% of Revolution Food’s meals are reimbursable by the Feds).  Now there is a tasty, healthy choice for all children.

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