When Corey Rennell was growing up in Anchorage, he had a dream of making the world a better place.
Influenced by the natural world outside his back door, Rennell credits his passion for the environment and his entrepreneurial spirit to growing up in the Last Frontier. One thing is for sure: He is not your average 30-year-old.
The Steller Secondary School alum studied natural history and nutrition at Harvard, starred as an athlete in the reality TV show "Last One Standing" and is the founder and CEO of a new organic food startup in the Bay Area of California.
Rennell traveled to communities around the world, learning from indigenous communities. From foraging for sago grubs in Papua New Guinea and herding goats in Mongolia, to rice farming in Indonesia, Rennell saw the importance of traditional foods firsthand.
He discovered that one simple principle was at the heart of health and nutrition for people across the globe: Eat mainly whole fresh fruits and vegetables.
At the same time, Rennell was spending a lot of time on the road eating highly processed energy bars. After figuring out that they were among the worst foods for his health, he began making his own nutrition bars and meals.
This led him to found CORE Foods, a new natural foods company based in Oakland, California. All the ingredients in the bars are organic, gluten-free, kosher and plant-based. They are also delicious.
Meals are sold refrigerated and all have expiration dates, because "real food spoils," as Rennell observes. The meals keep for one week on the go, one month chilled and six months frozen.
CORE Foods is a not-for-profit company and reinvests its earnings back into supporting organic farms, creating local jobs, offsetting carbon emissions and donating tens of thousands of CORE meals to families in need. The products are now sold in more than 300 locations nationwide.
"The way Alaskans think about problems is completely different than in the Lower 48," Rennell said in a phone interview. "In Alaska, a sense of entrepreneurship is inherent -- if you want something, you have to create it."
He joked, "Even the weather helps you adapt and figure out your entrepreneurial spirit."
Rennell also believes that the community in Anchorage was a key component of his business success.
He took the sense of community reciprocity gained from being an Alaskan -- "In Alaska, we rely on each other," he said -- and built it into CORE Foods' business model.
"One hundred percent of the profits are returned to the mission and community, and that came from growing up in a place like Anchorage," Rennell said.
"There's a revolution happening in food, there's a revolution happening in business, and I'm excited to be part of it all."
CORE Meals are sold at Natural Pantry in Anchorage in the front refrigerator section near the cash registers. They're also available online with free shipping to Alaska at corefoods.com.