As Penn students, most of us are fortunate to have access to healthy foods whenever we want or need them. As a result, It’s easy to be unaware of the food injustices affecting citizens right outside of the Penn ecosystem, in West Philadelphia.
For many Philadelphians, issues such as malnutrition and the prevalence of food deserts—urban areas where it is difficult to buy affordable and healthy food—are daily obstacles to leading a healthy life. Because of this, youth in Philadelphia are more likely to buy tasty but unhealthy and inexpensive food from local convenience stores. One of the most distressing consequences of these food injustices is the fact that Philadelphia has the highest rate of obesity among high school students alone in the US and a 20% obesity rate of children between 5 and 18 years old.
Tackling Food Injustices
After recognizing these problems, a few West Philadelphia students decided to rebel against the lack of access to healthy snacks in their neighborhood. Together, they resolved to create better food options for themselves and built a business solution called Rebel Ventures.
Rebel Ventures is a entirely youth-run enterprise that aims to promote healthy lifestyle choices and nutrition education within West Philadelphia. Local high school students hand-make food products: ReBel Bars, superfood granola bars made from local and organic ingredients; and ReBel Seeds, roasted organic sunflower seeds dusted with an Ethiopian spice blend. They also have a new project, called Icy Colors, that will provide fresh frozen fruit to students. These food products are sold in West Philadelphia elementary schools after classes through an Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative program called Fruit Stand.
The Students of Rebel Ventures
Many of the students who drive Rebel Ventures come from underprivileged backgrounds. They attend high schools that lack resources and staff, many of which have been placed under the “intervene” tier by the School District of Philadelphia—a status that indicates severe underperformance relative to their peers on standardized tests and other metrics.
As part of the Rebel Ventures team, these students not only learn about nutrition and health food education, they also learn fundamental business skills. Championing the idea of “learning by doing”, Rebel Ventures allows high school students to hone their entrepreneurial skills in a creative and collaborative setting, working alongside peers and in partnership with professional staff and mentors.
The organization’s staffing model consists of six high school students, part-time staff members, and department-specific volunteer mentors. There are six core business departments—operations, marketing, sales, development, accounting, design, and research and development—each headed by one high school student and one staff member. To ensure that they learn a diverse set of skills, the students rotate through the departments for one-on-one training and mentorship.
Rebel Ventures wants to share the story behind their creation and motivation to do what they do. The students maintain the Rebel Ventures Facebook page (which you can like here) and frequently add videos on Youtube (which you can watch here). You can also follow Rebel Ventures on Instagram (@rebel_ventures) and Twitter (@ReBelBars).
Currently, Rebel Ventures is a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center of Community Partnerships. Their bars are sold on Penn’s campus at Williams Cafe and Gourmet Grocer. In an effort to increase Rebel Ventures’ presence on Penn’s campus, the company plans to launch the sale of Penn Edition ReBel Bars for students to enjoy, complete with promotional flyers describing what differentiates ReBel Bars from other brands, and why we should choose them for their underlying mission, nutrition, and deliciousness!
When someone at Penn buys a ReBel Bar, his or her purchase supports the accessibility of healthy foods, nutrition education, and creation of sustainable jobs for the students running the business and the wider community of West Philadelphia. One purchase helps fight the food injustices undermining their health.
Be a ReBel. Switch to ReBel Bars.
For more information about Rebel Ventures, please visit www.rvcrew.com. Share this article and like/follow Rebel Ventures on social media to help them spread their story! Rebel Ventures on Facebook Rebel Ventures on Youtube Instagram:@rebel_ventures Twitter:@ReBelBars