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From Nourishing Students to Feeding Communities

Schools across the United States have closed their doors to students for part of, or in many cases, the remainder of the school year, moving to online classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But for many students, school is not just for learning. It’s also their only resource for breakfast, lunch and even dinner.

According to the No Kid Hungry campaign launched by the nonprofit Share Our Strength, more than 12 million children in the U.S.  live in homes that are food insecure, meaning they cannot afford or do not have access to enough food to keep all family members nourished. Revolution Foods, which makes and delivers approximately two million meals to 2,500 school and community sites across the U.S. in a normal school week, has found that over half of the families rely on the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to nourish their children at school each day.

Pivoting to a new menu plan

In order to ensure that those students in vulnerable communities do not go hungry during the COVID-19 shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued waivers to states allowing schools to provide meals to students while they’re not attending classes. And Revolution Foods is working with cities from coast-to-coast to find new ways to get food to students who are now confined to their homes.

“With nationwide school closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that all children, especially those from low-income or at-risk families, will have access to meals is our utmost priority,” says YPO member Kristin Groos Richmond, Co-founder and CEO of Revolution Foods.

To do that, Revolution Foods developed a suite of contingency meals – including cold and hot breakfast, lunch and supper, grab-n-go snacks, and shelf stable breakfast and dinner meals – to distribute to local families and homeless shelters. “Each of these meals is freshly prepared and refrigerated so that families can easily take the food home from community feeding sites to heat up and enjoy safely,” says Richmond.

Menu options include a mix of family favorites and culturally relevant dishes such as yogurt and granola, classic spaghetti and meatballs with green beans, Korean beef BBQ bowl, chicken gumbo with cornbread, and bean and cheese burrito. Shelf stable options are also available to allow families who don’t have refrigeration at home to still get adequate nutrition during this difficult time.

Serving those in need

The company’s ability to pivot quickly is due in large part to its culture and mission as well as its ongoing relationships with schools, governments and nonprofit organizations within the communities. Those connections, in particular, helped Revolution Foods to understand the most pressing challenges and how to adjust their menu, packaging and distribution to help solve them. Critical to any business leader’s success during this time of uncertainty and change Richmond says is the ability to be nimble and maintain an entrepreneurial mindset, stay connected with consumers and customers, and remember your mission.

“We reminded ourselves as soon as the crisis hit that our mission is delivering healthy, delicious and accessible food to those in need across the country,” says Richmond. “Because of this sense of greater purpose of who we’re serving and why it’s so important, we were able to quickly pivot from serving school meals to feeding as many as we can during this pandemic.”

Kristin Groos Richmond, Co-founder and CEO of Revolution Foods

During this period of remote learning, Revolution Foods has distributed 7 million individually packaged, grab-and-go meals in over 160 cities across 17 states in the U.S. in the first six weeks, with demand for its meals continuing to climb every day. Its partners have consolidated their feeding sites and set up more centralized locations. Some of those partners include school districts like the San Francisco Unified School District and Boston Public Schools, charter networks such as KIPP and Rocketship, nonprofit organizations such as World Central Kitchen and YMCA, and city programs in San Jose, California and Austin, Texas.

“Looking ahead, our goal is to continue to transform citywide wellness across the country by delivering high quality, culturally relevant foods to every child, adult and senior in the locations where they are most needed,” says Richmond. “We also plan to continue working to equip parents, teachers and students with valuable tools and resources to continue positive nutrition education beyond the lunch line. Together, we will build more lifelong healthy eaters.”

For more crisis leadership stories like these check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org. All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform. 

Cover image courtesy of World Central Kitchen.

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