Wondering what Oakland Unified Nutrition Services have been up to lately? At the June 3 “State of the Plate” meeting, we heard from Director Jennifer LeBarre and several students and staff from OUSD on exciting new developments, and the challenges the district still faces.
One of the first speakers was Iris, a student at MetWest High School. For her senior project, Iris put together and taught a 15-day class for her peers covering such things as basic nutrition and where to go in the neighborhood to get healthier food. Her class series sounded fantastic – we’ll try to get in touch with her to see if she wants to present it for other groups too. Listening to her talk, the passion and dedication Iris brings to the subject was very clear, and I firmly believe it is the leadership of young people like her that will transform our food system in years to come.
Here are some highlights from the rest of the afternoon:
OUSD Facts & Figures
OUSD has some impressive accomplishments to its name. In 2001 the district eliminated sodas. 90% of white bread has been removed, and the deep fat fryers are gone, too. There are produce stands at 12 schools, salad bars at 52 schools, a fresh fruit or vegetable offered at each breakfast and lunch, and “Meatless Mondays” at all K-8 schools. Several well-stocked “cooking carts” roam around the district for cooking lessons as well – stay tuned for an in-depth story on these carts.
Every school that has a full kitchen is phasing in scratch cooking, and the next challenge will be bringing scratch cooking to the district’s central kitchens. Nutrition Services also wants to increase local sourcing, have garden-to-cafeteria connections, and serve fruits and veggies in the afterschool snack program. The biggest challenges for these aspirations are facilities and funding. The Center for Ecoliteracy is working with Nutrition Services and the Oakland School Food Alliance on a feasibility study detailing the costs of a new central kitchen featuring scratch cooking and meals served on real trays that would be washed and reused each day. They’re also comparing this to the costs of trying to put scratch-cooking kitchens in place at every school.
Certainly OUSD Nutrition Services has challenges ahead, but there is tremendous energy within Nutrition Services and throughout the community to prove that a large urban district can serve up fresh, healthy, tasty food every single day.