In a time when off-shoring and outsourcing are household words discussed around dinner tables by struggling families, smart investments in local economies are essential. Yes, these sorts of investments can be made by socially responsible businesses or proactive public sector agencies. But they can also be made by entrepreneurial nonprofit organizations like DC Central Kitchen.
When the economy bottomed out, we knew we needed to generate more of our revenue and reduce our reliance on private foundations whose portfolios had been battered in the market crash. We also knew that the unemployed, at-risk men and women we trained for culinary careers as part of our hunger-fighting mission were going to face a tougher time than ever finding work.
We decided to go ‘all-in’ on the idea of social enterprise, and successfully bid on a multi-million dollar food service contract with the District of Columbia’s public school system. Not only were we charged with making more meals, but with finding a way to break new ground in the healthy school food movement. Read more
When San Francisco voters passed the three phases of the Proposition A facilities upgrade bond in 2003, 2006, and 2011, they approved money to cover the design and construction of green schoolyards for at least 83 San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) elementary, middle, and high schools. SFUSD is the first urban school district to embrace outdoor learning opportunities in this fashion. It is also one of the first large districts in the state to implement the Common Core State Standards, a new set of English language arts and mathematics standards focused on real-world college and career readiness.
Seizing on this opportunity, I met with Rosie Branson Gill last fall to discuss how our organizations (San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance and 18 Reasons, respectively) could work together to provide more opportunities for San Francisco students to engage both in school gardens and with the craft of cooking. On February 17 of this year, 13 elementary classroom teachers, garden coordinators, and parents gathered for the launch of Cooking the Common Core: Bringing Educational Standards to Life in the School Garden, a new training series designed to do just that. Read more
Three of Berkeley Unified School District‘s elementary schools–Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Washington—are in jeopardy of losing their entire cooking and gardening program funds beginning in October this year.
Under existing guidelines, the schools will no longer qualify for federal funding because they have fewer than 50 percent of their students enrolled in the free and reduced-lunch program, according to Leah Sokolofski, who supervises the program for the district.
Berkeley has an international reputation for its edible schoolyards, where public school children of all economic means learn what it takes to grow a radish and sauté some chard. Such funding cuts to the program, whose total budget is $1.94 million a year, would represent a significant setback in the city’s pioneering efforts to date. Read more
Given all the media attention, you may think that Alice Waters is the only person in Berkeley doing anything to fix school food–and that her Edible Schoolyard Project is the only organization tackling this topic across the country.
But that perception would be wrong. Founded in 1995, the Center for Ecoliteracy has also long championed school food reform and channeled funding in the millions to garden programs, cooking classes, and nutrition-based curriculum in Berkeley public schools. Read more
This spring on national television, British celebrity chef, restaurateur, and food system revolutionary Jamie Oliver filled a school bus with sugar.* The white stuff poured over seats and out of windows, piling into three foot drifts outside the bus as a handful of school parents looked on, speechless. The sugar represented the total amount in Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) milk every week. “Yeah, I’m trying to make it dramatic!” Oliver shouted, “Because I want people to care!” Oliver was dismayed that more parents weren’t there to witness the stunt. “Maybe coming to LA was a big mistake,” he lamented.
Oliver’s crusade for better school food began in England, where he got £2 billion voted into the budget for cooked from-scratch meals in 2005. Last year he launched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in the U.S., accompanied by an ABC television series filmed in small-town West Virginia that went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Reality TV Program. For this year’s season of Food Revolution Oliver had hoped to film inside cafeterias and a large food processing center in the LAUSD. But he was blocked by the school board, or more specifically, Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
To hear the media tell it Jamie Oliver has had a rough year. In addition, some food activists have been critical of Oliver’s show and methods. But to see 2011 as a failure for Oliver is to miss the point of his mission. It’s not to dominate American television ratings or even to directly influence food policy. Oliver’s mission is to ignite and expand an army of food revolutionaries in the U.S. who will drive change themselves. With the full force of his celebrity and national exposure he continues to be spectacularly effective in recruiting food activists. Read more
The big news out of California this past week was all about the premiere of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Season 2. This controversial show, which has plenty of detractors from within the food movement, is nonetheless the most successful effort to bring the food movement into larger public awareness that I’ve seen so far. But the same week a quieter food revolution was rolling along the West Coast: The launch of Nourish California. Read more
The successes—and shortcomings—of the Berkeley Unified School District’s revamped school food program received equal billing at yesterday’s premiere screening of short films collectively known as the Lunch Love Community Documentary Project. Read more
President Obama, recently speaking to students of his undergraduate alma mater, Columbia University, noted that, “Food at the cafeteria was notoriously bad. I didn’t have a lot of options. We used to joke about what was for lunch that day, and there would be a bunch of nondescript stuff that wasn’t particularly edible.” The next time POTUS is in town, I hope he stops by The Market Café at the University of San Francisco (USF) since cafeteria food has changed a whole lot since back in the day. And it’s not just for students: The Market Café is open to the public. Read more
A new compelling documentary tells the complicated story of the federal school lunch program, its origins, challenges, and opportunities, teasing out nuances without leaving viewers in the weeds. Lunch Line, a film by Michael Graziano and Ernie Park, resists taking sides on this divisive topic even while it deals with vampires and wolves. Read more
School gardens are as old as schools themselves. As Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Pringle see it, however, their return might just be the key to a modern education. Bucklin-Sporer and Pringle are the executive director and programs manager (respectively) of the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance (SFGSA) and authors of the new book How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers. I spoke with them recently about the book, their network, and what it will take to change education—one green schoolyard at a time. Read more