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Rebel Ventures is a health food business supported by Penn's Netter Center for Community Partnerships.

Credit: Sophia Dai

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced last week the launch of the Philadelphia Food Justice Initiative, a program which sponsors community projects to combat food inequity.

The Food Justice Initiative granted $180,000 to six projects picked from over 100 ideas pitched by community organizations, food justice collectives, and start-ups beginning in February, according to The Philadelphia Tribune

Selected projects include Mill Creek Urban Farm, a West Philadelphia community garden which will provide “food access and community healing" and Rebel Ventures, according to The Tribune.

“The goal is to identify and support community driven projects to advance food justice," Amanda Wagner, Program Manager for Nutrition and Physical Activity with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, told KYW Newsradio

Rebel Ventures is a health food business supported by Penn's Netter Center for Community Partnerships. In 2010, a group of eighth graders at Pepper Middle School came up with the idea to sell a healthy snack to their community. Their “rebel crumbles," a nutritious breakfast pastry, which contains a half cup fruit and 32 grams of whole grain, are sold in city stores and offered as a healthy alternative at local public schools.

“Healthy, nutritious food is hard to find, it’s expensive, especially the stuff that’s delicious that kids really want to eat. And the opposite, the delicious unhealthy food that’s not really helping them in terms of their health, is really easy to find,” Rebel ventures co-director Jarrett Stein told WHYY. “We want to be the change in our community.” 

The high schoolers behind Rebel Ventures work alongside Penn undergrads and faculty to design and market their products. Rebel Ventures plan to use the $42,000 from the Food Justice Initiative to open “Rebel Markets," health food markets around Philadelphia, according to The Philadelphia Tribune.

“Our goal is not only to sell what we already make, our Crumbles, but we wanted to give our future customers other healthy alternatives, such as smoothies and other good, delicious, healthy meals,” William Chaney, a sophomore at Freire Charter School, who works on human resources and social media for Rebel Ventures told The Netter Center in March 2019.

A September 2019 study, conducted by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, showed that neighborhoods with the lowest median income have on average 28% fewer high-produce supply stores per capita in comparison to wealthier areas. 

In these neighborhoods, low-produce supply stores such as 7-Eleven and Wawa not only comprise the backbone of resident’s diets but also outnumber healthier alternatives "by almost 7 to 1," according to the study.

As a result, approximately 13% of Philadelphia residents have “no or low access” to retailers with healthy options and quality produce, such as supermarkets, produce stores, or farmers markets.