Rhys Powell founded Red Rabbit as an antidote to the lackluster meals most schools provide for their students. It now serves healthy, locally-sourced lunches to almost 70 schools in New York City.
“We’ve done a disservice to our kids. The system that we have is broken. The school food system is broken. We at Red Rabbit, we’re fixing that.”
Rhys Powell predicts, “School food in the future — 5 or 10 years from now — will look very different.” And he wants his program, Red Rabbit, to be at the vanguard of that change. Started in 2005 when friends couldn't find the healthful alternative they sought, the program gives parents a convenient way to provide nourishing lunches in New York City’s schools.
Red Rabbit works with existing school lunch programs, but, as Rhys emphasizes, “we’re very flexible; schools that have cafeterias, we’ll manage their cafeterias for them. If they have no facilities, we’ll drop the food off hot, and anything in between.” The program eventually grew to encompass more schools once Rhys says he, “learned how severe and pervasive the lack of access to healthy food was in schools. And then we expanded the company’s mission to provide healthy food for all kids.” They “piloted a program at charter schools” that kept in mind the smaller budget, but that also kept operations sustainable. Remarkably, Rhys says, “We’re able to do it below the reimbursement rate — the rate the federal government sets for reimbursement for meals for at-need kids.”
Prior to starting Red Rabbit, Rhys, “was working in finance, and I didn’t have a background in food or kids.” In the beginning, he explains, “Like most small startups, it struggled the first few years.” But not wanting to fail the schoolchildren nor the parents, Rhys “took their trust seriously and our responsibility seriously, and that was the moment I decided this is it. I’m no longer in finance now, I’m Red Rabbit.” Looking forward, Rhys says, “We’re going to scale as much as we can. There are 1.1 million kids in the public schools here just in New York City alone, and countless millions in the region, so they all need access to healthy food.” His hope is to expand and “grow as quickly and as far-reaching as we can.” His chief end goal is accessibility. He says, “We’d be very happy if right now every child in school in the United States had access to healthy food.”