A partnership between Conscious Kitchen and West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) proves that sourcing fresh, local, organic food is cost-effective, benefits the climate, supports farmers, and contributes to resilient communities. In the face of school closures during the pandemic, the district pivoted from in-school dining to pre-packaged individual meals for pickup to food boxes with whole, fresh ingredients for families to cook nourishing meals. Conscious Kitchen and WCCUSD joined forces in early November 2020 to transition produce and other food products from conventional to organic, with increasing quantities each week.
In seven months (data encompasses November 4, 2020 through June 24, 2021), the collaboration has channeled $14.3 million into local economies to purchase 8.8 million pounds of organic food for 16.4 million meals to nourish Bay Area children. Curbside box pickups for approximately 20,000 children feature 100% USDA certified organic fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, protein and more to prepare up to 560,000 meals each week. Contents have been predominantly organic since March 4, 2021. In addition to items sourced directly from local organic farms, ranchers and suppliers, educational materials and recipes ensure families understand not only how to make the most of box contents, but also learn about why this paradigm-shifting program matters for the health of people, communities and economies.
With both need and demand from families on the rise, state and federal funding in place, and a direct price-comparable supply chain to support local farmers and producers amid pandemic challenges, the organic food boxes are slated to continue during school closures. When in-person learning resumes, a joint goal of WCCUSD and Conscious Kitchen is to increase organic procurement in the central kitchen by 50%. With a successful proof of concept, Conscious Kitchen will continue to build infrastructure, capture lessons, and create a blueprint for school districts to implement similar programs that prioritize organic agriculture, the health and wellbeing of children, families and workers, and thriving local economies and shared ecosystems for the good of people and planet today, tomorrow and far into the future.
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Visualizations of data for organic purchases, pounds of organic food, and meals served between November 4, 2020 and June 24, 2021.