Berkeley Haas alums help feed the community in the midst of a crisis

By Om Chitale

Kirsten Tobey spent a decade in education before pursuing her MBA at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. She knew when her students did not have access to healthy meals, it hindered their ability to focus, feel confident, and participate fully in the classroom.

When Kristin Richmond, an investment banker turned education entrepreneur, met Kirsten in Berkeley Haas’ MBA program, the two became an unstoppable force in delivering healthy, delicious meals to students across the Bay Area. 

What began as a research and development project in their New Product Development class at Haas turned into a mission to reimagine how schools can deliver nutrition to their Pre-K through 12 students. Kirsten and Kristin used their class as the springboard to found a new organization: Revolution Foods. Operating since 2007, their model is as much about healthy food as it is a call for educational equity and accountability for schools that provide meals to their students. 

“What we know is that healthy meals drive not only health outcomes but also student outcomes in the classroom,” Kristin said in this article. “Providing kids of all income levels healthy food sends a message of respect. It sends a message of empowerment.”

Now, in the face of a global pandemic, these two business leaders shifted the focus of Revolution Foods to serve thousands of children and families in the Bay Area whose food security is impacted by school closures.

Ready for anything

Kristin and Kirsten’s passion to deliver healthy meals and close equity gaps inspired them to fight food insecurity during this crisis. And, their MBA training provided them with the skills to confidently and quickly transform their business model from school-based meals to family meal delivery during a global pandemic. 

Berkeley’s MBA programs equip business leaders like Kristin and Kirsten to:

  • Use modeling and business projections to stay agile in fast-changing environments
  • Apply organizational management strategies to community challenges
  • Be students of their situation, adapting to what consumers want and need
  • Pivot and innovate confidently in unpredictable situations

The Berkeley MBA at Haas develops adaptable business leadership skills in all of its students so each one is prepared to lead wherever their path takes them.

A social innovation incubator

The Berkeley Haas MBA program’s Defining Leadership Principles encourage students, like Kristin and Kirsten, to question the status quo and look beyond themselves to develop sustainable solutions to complex problems. By gathering a strong network of dedicated, smart, and experienced colleagues, partnerships like Kristin and Kirsten’s solution to underserved students’ nutritional gaps naturally occur.

Another reason that Haas MBA grads are so prolific is their access to a network of thousands of entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, and public servants that call the Bay Area home. 

Confidence Without Attitude is another Defining Leadership Principle in the Berkeley Haas MBA program. With this in mind, Kirsten and Kristin knew they had some great ideas for change, and then collaborated with stakeholders in the local San Francisco Unified School District to inform their direction.

As students at Haas, they spent weeks polling teachers, students, parents, and administrators from over 50 schools to find out what the people most invested in a better school meal program wanted. As they dove into the research, they realized that the project was much bigger than a business school assignment. 

As Kristin recalls, one principal saw the promise of their ideas and pleaded with them, “Please don’t make this another business school project. Please start this company when you graduate.”

Dedication to success and service

Kirsten and Kristin’s dedication to serving the children and families in the Bay Area paired with business leadership skills developed in the Haas MBA program helped them build Revolution Foods. Over two decades since their company’s inception, Kirsten and Kristin are proving that they can continue to innovate, serve the community, and thrive even during a global crisis.

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Posted on May 26, 2020
Themes: MBA Benefits
Om Chitale
Om was the Director of Diversity Admissions at Haas from 2019-2021, as well as a graduate of the full-time MBA program (class of 18). He started his career in consulting at Deloitte, then switched paths into education access and equity work through an Education Pioneers Fellowship in Memphis. He's now Sr. Program Manager of Inclusion Recruiting Partnerships and Communities at LinkedIn.