Tag Archives: Center for Ecoliteracy

Berkeley group has plan to fix school food in Oakland

Cooking classes at Met West High School in Oakland. Photo: Tyler, Center for Ecoliteracy
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The meeting was held in San Francisco earlier this week at the offices of SPUR, a nonprofit created to promote good planning and good government. The focus of the discussion: an ambitious plan to overhaul Oakland Unified School District‘s inadequate and antiquated school food service. But the driving force behind what could be a model program for re-imagining school lunch in large school districts around the nation is a Berkeley-based nonprofit that has quietly been rethinking school lunch for many years.

No, not that nonprofit. The Center for Ecoliteracy recently released a detailed feasibility study that, if implemented, would amount to a massive makeover for the OUSD school food program. It includes recommendations for a newly outfitted, green central commissary with a 1.5-acre edible farm in West Oakland, refurbished existing kitchens, and the development of 14 school-based community kitchens dotted throughout the school district, which serves 38,000 students at 101 schools, 70% of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The community kitchens are envisaged as places where budding edible entrepreneurs and local organizations with a food focus could work, for a fee, during after-school hours. … Continue reading »

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New guide aims to improve school food beyond Berkeley

Food conference
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Regular readers may think that the only person in town doing anything to fix school food in Berkeley and beyond is Alice Waters via her Edible Schoolyard Project.

But that perception would be wrong. Founded in 1995, the Center for Ecoliteracy has also long championed school food reform and channeled funding in the millions to garden programs, cooking classes, and nutrition-based curriculum in Berkeley public schools.

Along with the Chez Panisse Foundation and Berkeley Unified School District, the Center for Ecoliteracy also implemented the School Lunch Initiative, which kickstarted local, seasonal, and sustainable food for students here and connected the classroom and the cafeteria. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Bites: Jessica Prentice

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Jessica Prentice’s claim to fame comes from coining the term locavore, chosen as the 2007 Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

The New York City-trained natural chef lives and breathes the locavore lifestyle. She is a co-founder of Three Stone Hearth, a community supported kitchen cooperative on University Avenue, which sells nutrient-dense, prepared foods (think soups and stews in bone broth made from scratch), and co-creator of the Local Foods Wheel, a whimsically illustrated guide to local, seasonal and ecologically-sound eating.

Prentice, 41, is the author of Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection, and one of the women profiled in Temra Costa’s recent book Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat.

She lives in Richmond Annex with her partner, fellow food advocate Jacob Wright who works at the Center for Ecoliteracy, and their 16-month-old son.

We sat down to talk at Three Stone’s communal table. Prentice nursed a large mason jar of reverse-osmosis filtered water spiked with trace mineral drops.

What do you like about running a food business in Berkeley?

We attract open-minded, forward-thinking people who want to eat well.  I love the diversity of our kitchen volunteers and apprentices.

One of our volunteers is a follower of The Hate Man, who espouses oppositional thinking. At first I just thought he was kind of intense and eccentric; he only ever wears a skirt.  He’s worked with us for three years — he sears the meats for us on Tuesday nights. Now I know that I have to just make commands: “go to the walk-in and get whatever”, without saying please or thank you. If I ask him how his day is he’ll say “bad”, and when I introduce him to new volunteers I let them know that they need to say “I hate you” to him as a greeting.

We also have a lot of transgender volunteers. People you call “he” but they’re on their period. We have plenty of only-in-Berkeley moments.

What’s challenging about owning a food co-op in town?

This is an expensive area and our community cooking business wouldn’t work if we had to pay all our kitchen workers. Labor is expensive. But we give people commercial culinary experience cooking high quality food in exchange for labor.

What kind of customers do you attract?

We have a cutting-edge group of customers that fall into several sub-sets. We have a lot of followers of the Weston A. Price diet, a nutrient-dense way of eating. We have people with kids who want their children to eat healthy. And we have people who have been through a major life-changing illness like cancer, come out the other side, and want to take care of their bodies. We get a lot of people who are interested in healing practices, and we get our share of wealthy customers who can afford to eat this way and just think it’s a good idea.

People who come to us know that good food is an investment — our meats are pasture raised, our produce is organic, we even use biodynamic raisins. It’s quality, nutrient-rich food so you need less of it but you pay a bit more for it.

Are there any misperceptions about the food scene here?

Eating locally is elitist — a notion that needs to be questioned.

It comes down to priorities and choices. Think about the amount of money that people — of all races — spend on their hair. You could buy a lot of good food with the money some people spend on hair treatments and products.

Almost every adult now has a cell phone. I ride the bus a lot, presumably a lot of people on the bus are of lesser means, but they’re all talking on their cell phones. What people pay for a cell phone plan could also pay for a lot of good food. … Continue reading »

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