Thursday, September 30, 2010

UC Berkeley Presents Proof that Edible Schoolyards Works

Photo Source: Katie Standke,

When food enthusiast Alice Waters broke ground and began the Edible Schoolyards (ESY) program in 1997, she embarked on a journey to “create and sustain an organic garden and landscape that is wholly integrated into the school’s curriculum, culture, and food program.”

While the idea of a school garden is right on point with what we hear about today in the push toward making children’s school lunches healthier, this program was one of even fewer of its kind thirteen years ago.

So in the fall of 2005, the University of California at Berkeley began a 3-year study to take a closer look at the program’s results, and its effects on students and their communities. As the study finished in spring of 2009, the results of the UC Berkeley study funded by the Chez Panisse Foundation are now available, and have revealed some very positive results!

The study followed 238 students in the program, and found that after a combination of eating healthy foods at school, learning about gardening and nutrition at school, that their nutrition knowledge, taste for and consumption of fruits and vegetables increased.

The schools of the ESY program offer from-scratch meals in their cafeterias, include gardens in 11 of the 13 district’s participating schools, and give teachers curriculum and lesson plans that incorporate food, culture, health and the environment.

After a good deal of scrutiny, the program has proved that the resulting benefits are real, and can have a great impact on student’s attitudes toward food as they grow into adulthood.

Stories like these are exactly what we at the Organic School Project love to hear!

Check out the program’s website at, and continue to work with us in bringing more programs like this to districts all over the country!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Act now: Critical Time for Child Nutrition

The Senate passed their version of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” in August; now the House needs to by tomorrow! School lunch needs your help!

In an editorial piece from the 9/22 edition of The New York Times, the implications and future of the US Senate’s approval of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” was discussed.

The act would set new nutritional standards for child nutrition programs (i.e. school lunches), provide an additional $4.5 billion over the next ten years to fund these nutrition programs, as well as expand the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches.

While the version passed by the Senate is great, the House version is even more comprehensive, expanding the decade-long budget to $7.5 billion for positive nutrition programs and healthier lunches.

Though the Senate and the House approved these versions, this does not mean that both the Senate and the House will pass them.

Child nutrition programs such as National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs are set to expire tomorrow if the House doesn’t pass the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” by then.

We at the Organic School Project feel that this bill would be a GREAT step in the right direction in combating childhood obesity, ensuring that children get more access to healthy foods at school, and that the current nutrition standards for school meals are given a close look. While we know the bill is not perfect and more funding is necessary, by letting the bill expire we run the risk of schools missing out on millions of dollars in meal reimbursements and the opportunity to finally remove unhealthy food from school vending machines.

This is where you come in. Help us ensure these essential nutrition programs continue in the future. Please contact your U.S. Representative by September 30th and urge him or her to vote yes on the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” when it comes up for a vote. Your help can move schools ever closer to bringing better foods to school lunch menus nation-wide.

Take a look at the full and summarized Senate and House versions of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

And visit Healthy Schools Campaign for a model email and instructions on how to send it your representatives!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Portland Elementary School Teaches Great Lesson on Implementing a Comprehensive School Food Program

Photo source: Alicia Dickerson,

We at the Organic School Project believe in reconnecting children with their food and encouraging healthy lifestyles through our Grow. Teach. Feed. model. By getting kids involved in their school’s organic gardens, we hope to combat the growing rate of childhood obesity in this country by teaching kids the value of nutrition and the quality of the foods they consume. As we learn more and more each day, we are nowhere near alone!

In 2005, Ecotrust, a sustainability and conservation non-profit out of Portland, Oregon launched their “Farm to School” project in collaboration with Portland’s Abernethy Elementary School. The project was designed to see whether school children would eat fresh foods when given the option instead of the processed, institutionalized food usually offered in their school cafeterias.

Together, Ecotrust and Abernethy designed a comprehensive and innovative school food program, including a “from scratch” kitchen, school garden, and monthly class lesson plans about cooking, nutrition, and the cycle of how food travels from farm to kitchen.

While the plan was undoubtedly noble in its efforts to teach children the importance of the food they put into their bodies and its impact on the world we live in, it all comes down to numbers and the bottom line: could this plan be economically sustainable?

Financial analysis of the project after its initial implementation found that the average “Farm to School” lunch cost $0.05 cents less than the average frozen meal usually offered. And to offset the increased labor cost of hiring 2 chefs instead of 1, the program received a grant from the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund. With the grant, the program locked in a $0.07 cent subsidy to each lunch price, aiding them in bridging the price gap between local and nationally distributed produce suppliers. This increased employment of Oregon farmers and growers created a positive economic ripple effect, as each dollar spent toward the lunches created an additional $0.84 in the state’s economy.

The “Food to School” project moved mountains in the fight for local, quality, healthy foods being put into our nation’s schools. From local news outlets like OregonLive and the Portland Tribune, to the national stage of NPR, the project has received a great amount of press since its inception. And more recently, Abernethy’s chef Nicole Hoffmann was invited to the White House’s South Lawn to help launch Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools program this past June.

This story is inspiring to us here at OSP, and motivates us to continue our work in bringing the same type of success to school districts here locally in the Midwest. One garden, one school, and one tasty (and healthy, too!) lunchtime meal at a time, we come closer and closer!

Check out the program’s website as well as the other projects that Ecotrust has been working on.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Volunteer Opportunity!

OSP is looking for volunteers to help in the development of our “Grow. Teach. Feed Handbook: An Institutions Guide to Sustainable Food Service!”

As you know, OSP is now in Phase II of our effort to foster healthier, environmentally and nutrition conscious kids and combat childhood obesity. We seek to provide information on food, health, the environment and the relationship between all three, so that children, in addition to having healthier meals, can make more informed and wiser choices in the future.

Our initial step is the development of our “Grow. Teach. Feed Handbook: An Institutions Guide to Sustainable Food Service.” The culmination of five years of work by organic visionary and author Greg Christian, the book seeks to provide school and kitchen staff, as well as teachers and parents, with the resources to Grow, Teach and Feed every child.

The first section, FEED, is a comprehensive training manual for schools to develop a healthful and natural–based, sustainable school foodservice that provides kids with healthier meals. The second section, TEACH, supplements these meals with lessons on nutrition and environmental stewardship to help kids make healthier choices. Finally, the GROW section teaches school staff how to connect kids to the earth and their food source by converting a portion of their school ground into an organic garden that serves as an interactive classroom.

Volunteer your time and gain kitchen and food photography experience with our talented Chef Jerry!

Throughout the month of October, Chef Jerry will be in the kitchen testing and perfecting our “kid proven” recipes that will be included in the "Feed" section of our handbook. During this time, OSP will also be photographing finished products to be used as visual inspiration in our book.

Working closely with our talented Chef , food photographer and founder, Greg Christian, OSP is looking for volunteers who would be willing assist in the preparation and testing of the recipes and the concurrent photo shoots.

By volunteering your time, you will get valuable experience while assisting a socially conscious organization help improve the quality of food served to our nation’s school children.

For more information, or to volunteer, send us an email at