An extensive list of the most common questions we receive about the history of our program and its operations.
What is the relationship between The Conscious Kitchen and Turning Green?
The Conscious Kitchen is a program of Turning Green (TG), a student led global movement devoted to education and advocacy around environmentally sustainable and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools, and communities. TG seeks to engage youth in the transition from conventional to conscious living, empowering this generation and mobilizing action to sustain a healthy planet.
How did TCK begin?
In the fall of 2013, TG launched TCK as a pilot program at Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy, the sole K-8 public school in the Sausalito Marin City School District. In partnership with Executive Chef Justin Everett of Cavallo Point Lodge, as well as Whole Foods Market, Good Earth Natural Foods and the school district, TCK set out to re-imagine school food and break the cycle of unhealthy, pre-packaged, processed, heat-and-serve meals at Bayside MLK.
With tremendous community support, the TCK team transitioned the school’s kitchen to one that now produces more than 300 fresh, local, organic, seasonal, and non-GMO breakfasts and lunches each day. All food is cooked from scratch, on site; almost all food is sourced from within 150 miles.
In just two short years, TCK has transformed school culture in the dining hall and beyond. Teachers have reported increased leadership qualities exhibited by students; improved academic performance; a decrease in disciplinary cases; and an increase in attendance. Teachers have also observed students treating one another with respect, improved manners and open communication. Through their participation in menu development, food preparation, service, and zero-waste cleanup, students now have a sense of pride and ownership of their school food program. They come together in the dining hall with teachers and staff to share meals in an inclusive environment that fosters conversation, laughter, and trust.
In Fall 2015, TCK expanded to its second site, Willow Creek Academy, forming the first 100% organic an non-GMO school district in the country. In 2015, the program served a total of 550 students more than 120,000 FLOSN meals.
What makes this program stand out?
• TCK is unique and unprecedented.
• Fresh Local Organic Seasonal Non-GMO (FLOSN) criteria for all food. TCK operates based on these guiding terms that are unique to this program.
• Strong commitment to and education around zero waste.
• Purchase within USDA budget and exceed NSLP/CNIPS guidelines/requirements.
• Daily scratch-cooked meals from an on-site kitchen. Having a fully operable kitchen on-site allows students to participate actively in the process.
• Dedicated Head Chef and team at each school who prepare FLOSN meals, ensure a welcoming place to eat, and emphasize the importance of sustainable, healthy and nourishing food.
• Each site partners with respected local professional chef, who acts as a mentor for TCK staff and students, bringing expertise and allowing for professional experiences at the partner chef’s restaurant.
• Partnerships with organic farmers and purveyors and broad based community involvement, both of which engender collaboration and strengthen the food web.
• Leadership skills through TCK Ambassadors Program, where students go from passive participants to active collaborators, working with the chef to develop menus, give feedback from students, and guide the program.
• Food literacy through Garden and Nutrition Curriculum that engages students and families in a deeper appreciation and understanding of the journey of food from farm to table.
Why start a Conscious Kitchen?
While schools vary in size, economics, and structure, the core elements for this program’s success are universal. The program has established a framework for education and systemic change to be replicated in schools across the nation.
- To Ensure Student Health
Conventional school lunches are high in hydrogenated fats, sugars and overly processed ingredients. Students exposed to such foods over long periods of time experience higher rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses. All children have the right to healthy food.
- To Bring Real Food Back to Schools
It’s time for schools to take responsibility for feeding students healthy, sustainable food. TCK helps schools to become agents for positive change instead of following status quo.
- To Support Sustainable Agriculture
Organic agriculture supports a food system that is not reliant on toxic pesticides, herbicides or genetic modification (GMOs). Sustainable farming benefits the entire planet at a time of environmental crisis.
- To Empower Students as Active Participants
Students develop feelings of ownership and responsibility for their school food, while becoming engaged and motivated to become advocates for their own health.
- To Develop Food Literacy
Many students leave school with competency in reading, writing, math and science, but far too few understand how to cultivate and eat sustainable food. This program integrates garden, nutrition, and cooking into the curriculum.
- To Support Local
By forging partnerships with local farmers, ranchers, chefs, purveyors, and grocers, the program supports local businesses and creates a network of stewards dedicated to the health of our people and the planet.
- To Teach Students Lifelong Skills
When students follow a recipe or produce their own food, they are developing a strong work ethic, healthy habits, and skills they can use for the rest of their lives. Hands-on education and mentorship in the kitchen and garden help students develop those skills.
- To Strengthen Community
When communities unite around feeding students healthy food, they ensure that the program’s impact extends beyond the school dining hall. Community support is a crucial component of a self-sustaining school food program.
- To Shift the Paradigm
You don’t have to look hard to see that our food system is broken. For the first time in a century, children born in the 1990s and later have a lower life expectancy than their parents, in part attributed to spiking rates of obesity and diet-related diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Our broken agricultural system is also responsible for polluting our air, water, and soil and is a major contributor to climate change (responsible for nearly 40% of global greenhouse gasses). Shifting the paradigm requires rethinking the way we do everything. Our schools are designed to support and educate our next generation, meaning they are a natural idea incubator, place for hope and inspiration, a community gathering place, a food provider, and can be our most effective agents for change.
- Because You Can
We started the Conscious Kitchen to prove that Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal, Non-GMO and Zero Waste food is an attainable goal for every school. Through hard work, intention, and a dedicated team, this way of thinking can be a reality in schools across our country. One voice is all it takes to start.
How much does The Conscious Kitchen cost per student at the Marin city schools?
• Average cost per meal
– Breakfast: $.90 – $1.32
– Lunch: $1.75 – $2.35
What are the various revenue sources available to a school implementing TCK?
Schools may combine paid lunch fees, USDA meal reimbursements, school food service district discretionary funds, and donations (in-kind or cash).
Has the school lunch price stayed the same since the start of the program?
At the pilot school, the lunch price has stayed the same and the school is paying less than it had for the previous third party provider. The second TCK site raised the lunch price from $3.75 to $4.50, with parent support, to help offset staff costs.
What are the critical factors in the program's success?
• Intentional and supportive Superintendent and School Board
• A Head Chef to ensure the integrity of the program
• Partnership with high-profile local professional chef to consult on menus, open doors to strategic partnerships, help negotiate preferred pricing with vendors and mentor students
• Committed parents, faculty, and staff
What is FLOSN and what does it mean?
Fresh Local Organic Seasonal Non-GMO food (our guiding terms) serves as the foundation for the program. FLOSN defines an unwavering commitment to nourishing students with healthy, ethically sourced, and sustainably grown food. For more information, click here.
What are the goals of TCK?
• Nourish Children: Feed all students FLOSN food to feed mind, body, soil and planet
• Build Community: Students and staff share meals together in the dining hall
• Develop Leadership Skills: Empower students to take on leadership roles and mentor younger students, ensuring the success of this program
• Beyond the Lunch Table: Incorporate nutrition, cooking, and school gardening across an interdisciplinary curriculum
• Chefs as Mentors: Build community around food and nutrition through chefs mentoring students, teaching culinary skills
Can this program work within any socioeconomic demographic?
Yes. The program is completely sustainable and designed to be replicated in all schools. Our first school is a Title 1 school; that program has been successful for 3 years, operating within budget and far exceeding USDA nutritional guidelines. The second school includes both paying and reimbursed students.
Is it possible to source / have access to food that fits the FLOSN criteria no matter where you live?
Yes. TCK will work with each partner school to help identify local farmers, ranchers, suppliers, and purveyors to ensure that FLOSN criteria can be met while remaining on budget.
Does The Conscious Kitchen program meet the USDA nutritional guidelines?
Yes. The program meets the NSLP and CNIPS guidelines/requirements.
How will The Conscious Kitchen program move forward?
During the 2016 – 2017 school year, we’re excited to transition 14 more Marin County schools to FLOSN through our partnership with Good Earth Natural Foods School Lunch Program. We are also developing educational programming to engage parents, hosting cooking classes for families, as well as school community dinners.
How long does it take to get started?
The time it takes to start The Conscious Kitchen depends on the school’s capacity to gather the necessary data to complete the application process, as well as, the time needed to refurbish the kitchen, establish a supply chain, and engage teachers, staff, and parent volunteers. Schools should anticipate a six month process. We suggest that the program begins with the start of school in August/September.
How do I get involved?
There are many ways to get involved with The Conscious Kitchen!
We are always looking for more volunteers in our gardens and kitchens. Check out our volunteer page here.
If you are interested in job opportunities, our up-to-date listings are posted here.
The Conscious Kitchen could not exist without the generous support of partners and donors. Your support will allow our groundbreaking work in The Conscious Kitchen to change the way we are nourishing our children and caring for our land. It is easy to donate here.
Partnership or Apply:
For partnership inquiries or if you are a school or parent interested in applying, please contact Judi Shils at firstname.lastname@example.org
How much will it cost for a school to have TCK consult with them to build their program? What will be provided?
TCK provides initial services, to help a school establish a program, as well as ongoing services to help a school maintain a program. Initial services include planning; Board and committee presentations; operations guidance (menus, quality control, vendor relations, purchasing guidelines); garden-based education and field trips; and fundraising guidance. Ongoing services include ongoing menu and recipe support; ongoing chef development; garden development; support in program evaluation/feedback; and fundraising guidance. Currently, the average cost of the initial services is $10,000. Ongoing services average $2,500 per year.
Who do I contact if I have other questions?
Judi Shils, Executive Director, Turning Green