A California school district has paired with a non-profit to offer 130,000 pounds of local organic produce to its students for lunches and we couldn't be more thrilled!

According to an article in Food Management, Food Services Director for West Contra Costa Unified School District Barbara Jellison wanted to bring organic, whole foods to the students in her district. She reached out to Judi Shils, who runs a nearby local nonprofit program, Conscious Kitchen. Shils contacted her local producers to see if the need could be met, and the rest is history!

Shils said it was a victory for both the businesses in the area providing the foods as well as the school students who were receiving them. Many of the school districts across the country began providing pre-portioned meals at curbside pickups for their students.

But Jellison wanted to be able to give the 31,000 students in their district more whole foods--being at home meant families could prepare meals together instead of rely on pre-packaged products. Lacking only the ingredients, really, partnering with Conscious Kitchen and local producers meant better meals for students and families and the relief of businesses in the community as the orders kept them going.

The boxes are packed with whole, organic foods, and often include fun things like whole melons or whole pumpkins with instructions for carving and baking. Their Thanksgiving box was one that even included a turkey and dinner rolls with the whole produce. The partnership with Conscious Kitchen means that they no longer give out pre-portioned meals, but organic foods that are more nutritionally satisfying.

The child nutrition staff takes about three days to pack the meal boxes and it takes a full day to deliver 23,000 boxes through the district.

But WOW! What reward! Between November 2020 and January of 2019, they were able to source millions of pounds of organic produce, as well as whole grains and proteins. Jellison said that each box has an abundance of ingredients (she's now adding organic eggs to each box) and students can even opt for vegetarian boxes.

The boxes are hugely popular. The weekly box program supplies nearly four times as many meals as their typical program with each box containing 28 meals. There are seven breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners and the district gives over 580,000 meals a week. They do still offer pre-portioned meals for those students who have no homes.

Each box also has recipes chosen by Conscious Kitchen chefs that will maximize the use of all the ingredients and families can prepare together.

Because they source so much, the costs are manageable and Jellison believes they'll continue to source those products even when schools return to in-person learning.

Nutrition is so important, and that the kids get involved and get to be ambassadors for the program means they're learning about healthy food choices at an early age and sharing their wealth of knowledge with their peers and families.

This is a school lunch program we LOVE!

Image: Conscious Kitchen/Instagram