The Haas alumnae feeding America
Classmates Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, both MBA 06, began Revolution Foods with a simple yet bold mission: to make all-natural, healthy food accessible to schoolchildren in low-income areas, preparing them for learning success. It wasn’t easy disrupting the multibillion-dollar school lunch market, previously dominated by processing centers offering low-quality foods, especially since Revolution Foods is a for-profit company. Each hand-prepared meal must be affordable within the federal reimbursement rate, which is less than $3.50 for a lunch. Their culturally relevant dishes (think jambalaya in New Orleans and enchiladas in Los Angeles) are made in eight locations nationwide with high-quality ingredients.
Since its founding, the Oakland, Calif.-based company has served over 500 million meals in 23 states and expanded to serve adults as well—in all, around 2,500 school, city, and customer sites. Their strong partnerships with schools, governments, and community organizations also helped them accomplish a pandemic pivot that’s fed millions. Here, some milestones.
Though attracting capital is difficult because of its untraditional social enterprise business model, Revolution Foods launches with ~$500,000 from angel investors and mission-focused “double bottom line” venture capital. They serve four Bay Area charter schools and rely on student input—a hallmark of their success—to create kid-approved meals, like spaghetti and meatballs. By year’s end, they’ve signed 32 schools and have $1 million in revenue.
With a compound annual growth rate of 125%, Revolution Foods is now a ~$70 MILLION BUSINESS PROVIDING 1,000 JOBS—No. 2 on Initiative for a Competitive Inner City’s list of the fastest-growing inner-city businesses. The company pilots nutritious packaged meals in supermarkets. One percent of retail sales is donated to schools to ensure they’re equipped to serve fresh meals.
Annual revenues are ~$100 MILLION as the company prepares over a million meals (breakfast, lunch, snack, and supper) weekly; about 85% of these reach children in free or reduced-price meal programs. SCHOOLS REPORT TANGIBLE ACADEMIC IMPROVEMENTS since starting with Revolution Foods.
End of pilot selling refrigerated meal kits at retailers.
COMPANY FOCUS EXPANDS to help alleviate food insecurity among children and adults.
Amid school closures, Revolution Foods PIVOTS TO CREATE 15 MILLION GRAB-AND-GO MEALS (including shelf-stable offerings) for families, seniors, and homeless shelters during the pandemic’s early days. Nonprofit and hunger-relief partners help distribute the food.
Serving 76 MILLION PANDEMIC MEALS again lands Revolution Foods on Fast Company’s MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES list (also 2012 & 2015). It converts to a Public Benefit Corporation, deepening its social mission while remaining for-profit. A new $60 million in funding will allow expansion.