Ruby Jean’s Juicery and Kansas City Public Schools are partnering this fall on a new pilot program offering fresh-squeezed juices in three area schools. Through cold pressed juice, the program will introduce students to nutritious foods and education around healthy living and eating.
Under the pilot program, Ruby Jean’s founder Chris Goode will deliver the juices on a biweekly basis for a total of approximately 10,000 juices during the school year.
Director of Food and Nutrition at KCPS Jordan Gordon said, “Ruby Jean’s has earned the reputation of providing high-quality, nutrient rich juice products with significant health benefits. Our partnership with Ruby Jean’s is trailblazing and is a reflection of our commitment to improve our offerings to KCPS students while expanding our partnerships in the community.”
A study by the USDA showed 75% of educators see students regularly come to school hungry because they aren’t getting enough to eat at home. They’ve also found students who eat school breakfast score higher on standardized tests, demonstrate better school attendance and display fewer behavioral issues.
Additionally, ultra-processed foods account for two-thirds of calories in the diets of children and teens. Motivated by these findings and his late grandmother’s battle with diabetes, kidney disease and high blood pressure, Goode’s vision for this program is to reach students who may not have access to nutritious foods and education, and intervene as early as possible in a way that is fun, fresh, and innovative to this population of students.
“When I look at the violence and murder rate in Kansas City and how it’s confined to a small radius on the east side of our city, I start asking myself ‘what are the root causes of these outcomes?’” Goode said. “One of the most glaring issues is the lack of awareness and focus on health, compounded with food insecurity, and the inability to implement healthy lifestyles at a young age. Many of our kids don’t have the resources to eat well, and when they go to school, the food isn’t always conducive to a strong mind and a positive outlook. We can change that.”
Two years ago, Goode reached out to KCPS Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell to initiate conversations about his vision for this program.
KCPS was interested in testing the program in 2020, but COVID inevitably delayed the launch. Now with students back in schools this fall, they are moving forward, starting with kids in the most vulnerable areas, and then branching out.
Goode’s ultimate vision is to expand into Kansas City Kansas Public Schools, other districts locally, and even nationally.
“If we can capture kids along their path and integrate healthier lifestyles,” Goode said, “I believe it will result in more positive outcomes. We always say we make juice for a reason—that’s the core of the reason; changing how people look at health and increasing their access to health. We see the public school system as a great opportunity to connect with the most vulnerable kids, where many fall below the poverty line and simply aren’t getting the nutrients they need to be successful.”
The pilot launches Sept. 10, and will provide juices to students at Faxon Elementary, Central Middle School and Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. The pilot will run for the school year, with an option to renew.