Cafeteria food

Across the country, school cafeterias serve more than five billion lunches each year.

In one of California’s largest school districts, those meals are getting healthier and better for the environment.

LeBarre: “There tends to be this notion that it’s all or nothing – you either have to do all organic or all local or all vegetarian in order to make a difference.”

That’s Jennifer LeBarre. While executive director of Oakland Unified School District’s Nutrition Services, she helped transform the district’s meal program one step at a time.

For example, “California Thursdays” highlight locally-produced ingredients. “Lean and Green Wednesdays” emphasize vegetarian options.

These changes add up. A nonprofit called Friends of the Earth analyzed the carbon emissions, water use, and costs of the program. They found that the district reduced food-related carbon pollution by fourteen percent, cut water use by about 42 million gallons of water a year, and even saved money.

For LeBarre, the best outcome of all is that the children are now getting more tasty, wholesome, and nutritious food.

LeBarre: “It really is just part and parcel with the work of taking care of the whole child.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo credit: USDA.

Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy is an editor and content producer with ChavoBart Digital Media (CBDM), a production firm with a focus on scientific and environmental media. Her work on Climate Connections includes developing...