Conscious Kitchen: Sausalito Office

The past couple weeks I have been working with Charlie from the Conscious Kitchen at their office in Sausalito. Last week, I helped draft the beginnings of their Wellness Policy, which draws a lot from the Center for Eco-Literacy’s policy guide. I was asked to read through the district’s current wellness policy, as well as some of the Eco-Literacy policy, in order to read through the start of Charlie’s first draft and contribute my own ideas and feedback. Policy reading and writing is something that is completely new to me and definitely challenging to wrap my head around at times. That being said, I am extremely excited about it and grateful that Charlie is introducing these projects to me, for they are definitely a crucial and valuable part of this work. On one end, I have been doing work on the ground level, with kids at garden programs, and on the other end I have been working on the political, bureaucratic side of things. The two levels of work are completely different and therefore, rarely intersect or communicate with one another. However, in order to see the whole picture, future integration is going to be key.

This week, I helped with a grant proposal that the Conscious Kitchen is drafting to submit to the Citi Foundation for their Community Progress Maker’s Fund. This grant, of $500,000 over two years, is focused on community development, which fits in with the Conscious Kitchen’s aim to improve wellness and engagement in their community. Here are some of my notes for the proposal:

Community Progress Maker’s Fund for Conscious Kitchen (Citi Foundation)

General thoughts:

  • This work focuses on one school at a time and targets the link between food, health, culture and the environment through multiple avenues. The Conscious Kitchen incorporates the lunch/food program, school garden program, and weaves those programs into the curriculum at every level.
  • “Community” encompasses more than simply the people, when we talk about community we are acknowledging a complex system which includes the soil, water, air, plants, animals, and humans as creators and producers.
  • Curriculum is essential, need to integrate it into the school so that students and teachers are able to make these connections and teachers actually know how to use the garden or kitchen as a classroom
  • Fast food values do not belong in our public education system
    • “In school cafeterias, students learn how little we care about the way they nourish themselves – we’ve sold them to the lowest bidder. At best we serve our children government–subsidized agricultural surplus; at worst we invite fast-food restaurants to operate on school grounds. Soda machines line the hallways. Children need only compare the slickness of the nearest mall to the condition of their school and the quality of its library and its cafeteria to learn that our culture considers them more important as consumers than as students.” – Alice Waters
  • Food system is a SYSTEM, which means its problems as well as its solutions are systemic. School food reform is a critical part of changing the larger system; it is a basic equity issue.
  • The ONE institution within the food system/food movement that cuts across all classes and where we can reach everybody is the public school system. A lot of people get the majority of their calories in a given day (lunch and often breakfast) at school. We must focus our political energy on making school meals about real food.
  • Every school that CK works with would ideally have:
    • A school garden program with a full time, on-site garden manager and teacher for the garden classroom.
    • A head chef, assistant chef and culinary intern for the food service program.
    • A lunch program that meets CK’s FLOSN standards of real food
    • Menus that meet USDA standards and fit the budget of the school’s food service program, whether it is a Title 1 school or not.
    • Curriculum that allows kids to engage in garden and food-related activities by meeting common core state standards, and standards for science, health, nutrition, etc.
    • Waste management program that includes recycling AND composting
    • The program should include a set of learning goals for each student, what CK wants children to gain from the garden/kitchen/food program, in addition to eating healthier and nourishing their bodies.
    • Community engagement strategic plan- re-engaging in food at the community level is KEY. In order to engage the community, need to bring together children, parents, local businesses, local farmers and food producers, etc. – ask everyone to invest in the garden (ex: $1 per family – to make that investment real and tangible)
  • PARTNERSHIPS: crucial piece to this. Building relationships and networking with people in the community who care about kids eating healthier food or explaining to them why they SHOULD care.
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