In 2011, Jared Crooks ’11 was working at the National Academy of Sciences while Veneka Chagwedera ’09, now his wife, was starting an MBA program at the University of Virginia. With busy lives and an interest in staying healthy, the pair began making their own snack bars in their Washington, D.C., kitchen. They leaned on Crooks’ science background to cook dates, chocolate, and cashews into organic bars. Chagwedera’s growing expertise in entrepreneurship and the pair’s longtime interest in humanitarianism led them to found Nouri, which donates a portion of the proceeds of each bar to provide hot meals for children at school.
Nouri bars, made with all-natural ingredients from farms in the United States and manufactured at a facility in California, are sold at Whole Foods, local stores, and online. Crooks helps run the company while attending a joint masters-degree program in public policy and mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton. Chagwedera works at the University in the development office.
Nouri, which has 10 employees and is profitable, has sold more than 100,000 bars and provided the same number of meals to children at schools in Botswana, the Philippines, Guatemala, Detroit, and Oklahoma City.
The couple eventually hopes to produce the bars in other countries as well, using local labor and ingredients to promote development, job creation, and sustainability. Children are “more able to focus on classes when their stomachs are full, and it gives them more incentive to attend school,” Chagwedera says. “We hope that they can go on to graduate and make a difference as well.”