There’s no denying that Rich Products is in the celebration business. From pizza to cookies to cupcakes—we know what it takes to make a party pop. But in the early aughts,, when Rich’s Senior Chairman Bob Rich began making 90th birthday plans for his father and our founder, Robert E. Rich, Sr., he envisioned something more fulfilling than ice cream or peanut butter pie.

“Mindy and I thought long and hard about an impactful way to celebrate our founder’s birthday,” said Rich. “We decided the best gift was to establish a scholarship for students who demonstrate potential for success as well as a great passion for the foodservice industry.” 

With that, in 2003, the Robert E. Rich (RER) Aspiring Entrepreneurs Scholarship was born. Sponsored by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), the annual scholarship supports aspiring entrepreneurs who share our namesake’s passion for food. The scholarship commemorates the innovative spirit of the late Robert E. Rich, all while celebrating his commitment to the community. What better way to ensure the livelihood of an industry than by investing in its future?

Twenty years later, Rich’s has awarded $115,000 to 35 students pursuing a post-secondary degree in the restaurant, foodservice, and hospitality industry. Camilo Ortiz, a 2021 recipient of the RER Aspiring Entrepreneur Scholarship and hospitality student at Cornell University, is grateful for the opportunity to pursue his passion.

“This took me a step closer to achieving my dreams,” said Ortiz. “After I graduate, I will make it my mission to give back to my community, as it has given so much to me.” 

That spirit of giving and caring for the community is exactly what Rich’s hopes to inspire in the next generation of culinary and foodservice leaders. 

At the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), food business management student and scholarship recipient Ayvah Sweeney envisions a future in which the foodservice industry fuels empowerment and change. 

“I want to open an establishment that has the ability to offer jobs to those who have experienced hardship  and offer programs that will focus on community enrichment,” said Sweeney. 

Kira Tsoodle, another food business management student at the CIA and a 2022 RER Aspiring Entrepreneurs Scholarship winner, hopes her culinary endeavors will create opportunities to celebrate her heritage. 

“I plan to open a restaurant based on traditional Native American cuisine,” said Tsoodle. “My goal is to be one of the first well-known Native American women in the culinary industry. I want to spread awareness about what is going on in my community and teach people about my underrepresented culture as well.”

Brianna Pinder, a culinary arts student at Johnson & Wales University received her RER Scholarship in 2022. For Pinder, her future in food will be committed to people and the planet. 

“Ever since I was a young girl, I have had a passion for food and for people. And through my education, I have found a love for our food system, environment, and sustainability,” said Pinder. “I plan to work at farm-to-table restaurants before opening my own. I plan to have a restaurant that focuses on not only the needs of the people, but also the environment.” 

Countless students across the country have dreams just like these. While their path to professional foodservice may not always be the same, their power to make a positive impact on the food industry is undeniable. 

“We’re grateful for Rich’s partnership, which plays a big part in the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s work to help students from all backgrounds pursue a career in the restaurant and hospitality industry. I’m excited to see what the future holds for each of the scholars impacted by Rich’s generosity and how they’ll carry our industry forward in the years to come,” said Rob Gifford, president of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

For Rich’s, breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for foodservice students is the gift that keeps on giving.

“Our founder had an unwavering passion for two things: innovation and people,” said Mindy Rich, chairman at Rich Products. “For the past 20 years, we’ve been honoring the legacy of Robert E. Rich by opening doors to industry-specific educational pathways for the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, so that they too can dream big and imagine a world of infinite possibilities as they pursue their love of food.”