Small Step for California, Giant Leap for School Cafeterias

The Center for Ecoliteracy has left an unprecedented mark in the movement for green schooling. Based in Berkley, California, this non-profit organization is spearheading the cause for a healthier youth. Their goal is to make schools and communities in the United States more ecoliterate, or able to understand how to create a more sustainable and enjoyable life by way of the natural systems in our environment. Among a few of the Center’s objectives for change are school gardens, school lunches, professional development seminars, school curricula, and consulting services. By promoting the consumption of fresh, local food, children are taught the countless benefits on their bodies, their communities, and the environment.

Generated in collaboration with CEL, “California Thursdays” was piloted on October 23, 2014. Fifteen California school districts came together in the determined preparation for this initiative, where fresh, locally grown foods are served out of participating school cafeterias on Thursdays. This once a week event is a small step toward the drive for major change in school lunch programs. Rather than shipping locally grown produce to other states for processing and packaging into microwavable meals, the leaders behind California Thursdays are promoting a healthier and more practical approach of farm to cafeteria table.

The Center for Ecoliteracy website offers a plethora of resources as a frontrunner for change. A wealth of knowledge, instructional tools and strategies, essays and books are available for teachers, school staff, community leaders, parents, and students. A fantastic planning framework is offered in Rethinking School Lunch, and includes a detailed map of key members and pathways to success in your school. Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools is a cookbook and guide to menu planning comprised of recipes, preparation and presentation notes, as well as class instruction guidance for implementing change. Both of these resources are free and downloadable.

Though California catapulted the idea, the notion to rethink school lunches is not limited to one state. The Center for Ecoliteracy is a role model for other states to replicate, and there’s no better time than now.

Healthy Choices from the Ground Up

The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) has brought local foods, health education, and hands-on gardening to over 40,000 schools in the America. This empowering organization has expanded immensely since its start in 2007, and is now taking place in each of the 50 states. The NFSN teaches children and their families how to support their local communities, while nourishing their bodies with fresh food choices. From creating school gardens to farm field trips, children in Pre-K through twelfth grade are invited to get back to the roots of their fruits and vegetables. The farm to school movement promotes a three-win relationship among kids, farmers, and communities.

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This organization could not have grown without the communications media. Today, even our soil needs media awareness. Stacey Malstrom, PR & Outreach Manager for NFSN, shares these five tips for building better media relationships and getting word out about your farm to school program.

NFSN is also hosting a webinar on March 10, 2015, called, Making Change: How you can support farm to school policy this spring. Register to learn how you can help NFSN get the support it needs from Congress.

Starting a Food [Education] Revolution

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution aired on U.S. television between from March 2010 and June 2011. Its star was English celebrity chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver and the show documented Oliver’s attempt to help Americans fight obesity. Oliver’s mantra was “start a revolution with real people and real change.” The first episode takes place in Huntington, West Virginia, one of the unhealthiest towns in the U.S. The show documents Oliver trying to improve the eating habits of the residents—but not without opposition.

In the second season of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Oliver visits Los Angeles, California, on a mission to change school meals. Oliver clashes with cafeteria staff over the pizza served for breakfast and the chicken nuggets and flavored milk for lunch. The show depicts the difficulty in introducing change within one of the largest school systems in the U.S. Despite the show winning an Emmy Award in 2010, it was cancelled in 2011 and Oliver was ultimately barred from filming at any Los Angeles public school. The audience is reminded that the daily schedule, student motivation, and the bureaucracies of the school system cannot be separated from the wider social, political and economic contexts in which they exist. In other words, schools are complicated organisms.

You can watch Jamie’s inspirational TED Talk, “Teach Every Child About Food” [21:53] below: