Yes, You Can Have 100% Organic School Lunches for Your Kids

We’ve all heard a lot of talk about childhood obesity. We’re constantly fighting off the multitude of processed foods that tempt our kids. We try to eat healthy – no trans fats, no sugars, and no corn syrup, please! We skip the GMOs. We stay away from anything with pesticides. So when it comes to school lunches, do we really have to throw away all of our principles and settle for whatever triple processed slop they serve up?

Marin City at the Vanguard

Several schools in the Marin City District near San Francisco have become the first in the nation to serve 100% organic meals sustainably sourced and free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) thanks to The Conscious Kitchen. You won’t find a typical public school cafeteria heat-and-serve, pre-packaged meal anywhere in sight. Even though the federal guidelines for school lunch nutrition now include less processed white flour and more fruits and vegetables, they’ve yet to recognize the potential dangers of pesticide residue content in the food.

More than 500 students are participating in this Marin City district experiment, which may serve as a model and template for other schools to follow. The all-organic food is prepared by a local pilot program called The Conscious Kitchen, which is under the umbrella of a larger organization called Turning Green. Both hope to help change the world for the better through sustainable, healthy living.

Transforming School Lunch Programs

The Conscious Kitchen is dedicated to a systemic transformation of school food programs with a special focus on children’s health and environmentalism. They have five foundational principles when it comes to school lunches: everything has to be fresh, local, organic, seasonal, and non-GMO. They are the first school lunch provider to strictly maintain these standards and of course, they’re hoping many other programs will follow suit. So are we!

The Conscious Kitchen serves over 300 healthy, delicious breakfasts and lunches each day. All food is cooked from scratch, on site, every day. They believe that making sure school lunches are flavorful and delicious has many big benefits. Not only do the more flavorful local, seasonal, and organic lunches cut down on food miles, they also remove pesticides and other chemicals from your child’s menu. The better taste ensures kids will eat in and when school food is more flavorful, less of it ends up as waste.

Inspiration from the Chefs

International chefs and food writers such as Jamie Oliver and Michael Pollan provide the ongoing inspiration for the Conscious Kitchen movement for healthy school food. As Jamie says, “Imagine a world where children were fed tasty and nutritious, real food at school from the age of 4 to 18. A world where every child was educated about how amazing food is, where it comes from, how it affects the body and how it can save their lives.”

What's on the Menu?

The Conscious Kitchen focuses on appetizing meals – ones that are delicious as well as a feast for the eyes. Veggie lasagna; kale, cranberry, and pepitas salad; farm fresh apples; and organic milk is a sample menu served up by the Conscious Kitchen; following a breakfast of spiced buttermilk pancakes and vanilla yogurt. Classic favorites are also offered, including grilled cheese, and chicken noodle soup. The difference is that it’s all pesticide and GMO-free. You will also see grown-up meals like pesto pasta and honey lemon carrots.

Getting It Done through Local Partnerships

Farmers and food purveyors near each participating school are the primary sources for all the organic food used by Conscious Kitchen programs. In addition to the ingredients the Conscious Kitchen procures, local farmers often donate to the program when a harvest is particularly abundant or in danger of going to waste. Weekly visits to these farms and businesses are integrated into the educational curriculum, teaching children what food is in season and why it’s healthful to eat it at that time so children understand that in-season food is more nutritious than picked-early fruits and vegetables.

The all-organic lunch program is also supported by an interdisciplinary garden and nutrition curriculum. Many schools across the country have garden projects on site, but the Conscious Kitchen program teaches kids how to cook from what they have seen growing. They also learn about new and different foods and the nutrient content that keeps them healthy. When quinoa was recently served, there was a placard nearby that explained what type of plant it comes from and where it grows.

It Doesn’t End with the Meal

The other idea is that there is no such thing as waste. “With a goal of zero waste throughout food purchasing, preparation, service, and clean up, all food scraps are composted, all kitchenware is reusable and almost all waste is recycled or reused,” says the Conscious Kitchen program guide. Students are involved in the basics of recycling and also taught how to build and maintain a compost pile for kitchen scraps. Compost is then used in the school’s own garden. Part of food education is soil-health education.

DIY Conscious Food Program

The Conscious Kitchen project offers a toolkit for interested parents and schools that want to replicate its program for organic school lunches. They will help you plan, organize, fundraise, network, and run a program like theirs at your school. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the results look fantastic.

Do you hope to bring organic, locally-sourced, seasonal meals to your school? 

Tags : school   lunch   nutrition   health   

Kira Smirnova
We need to have this at all schools
Nikki M