Kat Taylor co-hosted a Healthy School Food Policy Convening with Sec. Karen Ross

Kathy Webster

In California where a majority of our food is grown, we keep running into the same challenges: how to feed healthy, good tasting food to the more than 3.2 million children in our state many of whom get most of their calories from school-supplied meals. It’s no wonder there are three legislative bills on the table focused on healthy school food in California schools.

Recently, Secretary of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross hosted a convening, along with TomKat Ranch founder, Kat Taylor as co-host, to bring together the bill authors, sponsors, and stakeholder groups to help inform, support, and collaborate around healthy school food. The vision: Every student has universal access to nutritious school meals made from scratch by school food service staff with sustainable, minimally processed ingredients grown in California.

The good news is many of the stakeholders in the room have implemented successful programs in several California schools (California Thursdays, Harvest of the Month, Farm to Cafeteria, Food Lab, Smarter Lunchrooms) to help increase local procurement and the consumption of healthy and delicious meals.

The goal of the convening was to unite and set the table for our future generations and seek alignment to provoke systems change.  The common objective in the room was to improve procurement practices, promote environmentally beneficial agricultural practices, provide training and professional development for food service personnel, and transform the cafeteria into the largest classroom in the school–providing healthy food to all California students.

Each of the bills’ authors gave a brief overview of their bill followed by an open discussion with the rest of the attendees. A few challenges that clearly need to be addressed include: higher labor costs to source locally and cook from scratch, student education and engagement, equitable school food access and funding; access to kitchen equipment and infrastructure related to sourcing locally, funding for local procurement, improving the perception of school food, and awareness of how our food is grown.

Next steps are to have a larger convening and include a meal together at the State Capital with more food service staff and students.