The Conscious Kitchen (TCK) was piloted in 2013 at Bayside MLK Academy in Marin City. This unincorporated, low-income area is nestled in one of the most affluent counties in the United States. More than 95% of Marin City students qualify for free-and-reduced government-subsidized school meals. 88% of students in this community will be the first in their families to graduate from high school. Although Marin County is teaming with organic farms and ethical food purveyors, Marin City is a food-insecure neighborhood. Conversely, 58% of 5th graders at Bayside-MLK Academy in Marin City are overweight or at risk of obesity.
The Conscious Kitchen set out to accomplish the seemingly impossible; to transition from heat-and-serve, pre-packaged, processed school food served at Bayside MLK Academy to meals prepared with fresh, local, organic, seasonal, non-GMO (FLOSN) ingredients. In partnership with Executive Chef Justin Everett of Cavallo Point Lodge and the Sausalito Marin City School District and with support from Good Earth Natural Foods and Whole Foods Market, TCK began its work to shift the paradigm around school food.
Two years later, in the fall of 2015, The Conscious Kitchen expanded to its second site, Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito, forming the nation’s first 100% organic, non-GMO school district. During the 2015 – 17 school years, TCK served 450+ students more than 190,000 chef-prepared FLOSN meals in on-site zero waste kitchens, which included breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The program is accompanied by an interdisciplinary garden, nutrition and culinary curriculum that promotes food literacy and environmental education. Students are able to plant, cultivate, harvest, and eat food, as they follow it from from seed to fork. As a result, they are developing the knowledge, tools and habits they need to live healthier, more productive lives.
TCK’s accomplishments over the past four years are unprecedented. The program is creating partnerships with schools, county offices, district leaders, students, businesses, and organizations to continue to expand throughout Marin and neighboring Bay Area counties.
Where We Are Headed: District Wide Expansion in West Contra Costa County
TCK is excited to expand its program to neighboring West Contra Costa County Unified School District (WCCUSD), to test this blueprint and framework in a large school district where a majority, 70%, of the students live below the poverty line. In Spring, 2017, The West Contra Costa County Board of Education voted to approve an agreement to allow TCK to begin a year-long program to transition food service at two public elementary schools in their district, Peres and Madera Elementary Schools, as a first step in their district. Learn more about this expansion and how you can get involved, here.