As it kicks off the 2015-16 academic year, the Sausalito Marin City (Calif.) School District says it is the first school district in the nation to serve students food that is 100 percent organic and not genetically modified.
The district says in a news release that more than 500 students at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy in Marin City and Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito are eating sustainably sourced meals that are prepared at the schools through a program called The Conscious Kitchen. The programs began on Aug. 27, the first day of school.
Turning Green, a non-profit organization, launched The Conscious Kitchen pilot program in August 2013. A key aim of the program is to avoid GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. Although the long-term effects of GMOs are still uncertain, some evidence indicates a connection between GMOs and a variety of health risks and environmental damage, the school says.
The pilot program served 156 students at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy. Over two years, the school experience a steep decrease in disciplinary cases, an increase in attendance and a greater sense of community.
“The results speak for themselves,” says Steve Van Zant, superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City School District. “Since launching the pilot at Bayside MLK Academy in 2013, students are eating real food for breakfast and lunch, discipline cases have dropped dramatically, attendance has improved, food waste is down, and students' and teachers' sharing of meals has led to improved manners and open communication.”
All food served in the program is organic and non-GMO, and more than 90 percent of all produce comes from local farmers and purveyors.
“USDA nutritional standards do not prioritize organic and non-GMO food, and as a result, students everywhere are vulnerable to pesticide residues and unsafe environmental toxins,” says Judi Shils, founder and Executive Director of Turning Green. “Not only does this program far exceed USDA nutritional standards, but it ties the health of our children to the health of our planet. It’s the first program to say that fundamentally, you cannot have one without the other.”
The schools also are using a garden and nutrition curriculum that teaches students about where their food comes from, how it’s grown and why it’s good for them.