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September 16, 2014

‘California Thursdays’ source school lunches locally


In Oakland, California, school officials are revamping the school lunch menu to bring in food from local farms.

The movement to source local food was inspired by a project from Cleveland Elementary School, where fifth-graders calculated the distance food had travelled before arriving in their lunchroom.

When Oakland students did the same project on Earth Day, they discovered that the asparagus they ate at lunch had traveled 17,000 miles between its growth and arrival to them: it was grown in South America, flown to China for processing and then back to California.

“That just blew my mind,” said Jennifer Lebarre, director of nutrition services for Oakland schools.

Now, Oakland is launching “California Thursday,” a day each week when 20,000 students will eat locally grown food. The schools are working with the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California, along with local parents, to provide the lunches.

A new central kitchen in West Oakland will allow students to grow their own food, which will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that come from industrial food processing. The kitchen will also serve as an educational center for students and community members.

Warm up questions
  1. What does the slogan “eat local” mean?
  2. What are greenhouse gases and what do they do to the environment? Why do greenhouse gases have anything to do with where our food comes from?
  3. Do you eat the lunch provided by your school’s cafeteria?
Critical thinking questions
  1. What are the benefits of eating locally? What are the drawbacks? Why do you think the Oakland schools don’t use locally grown food every day?
  2. What do you think “ecoliteracy” means? Hint: What is ecology or an ecosystem? What does it mean to be literate?
  3. If it was possible to have your cafeteria use locally grown food would you want it? What if it cost you a little more? How about if the price of the lunch doubled?
  4. How do schools balance the goal of serving healthy food with serving tasty food that students will eat?

For information on the American Graduate project, visit www.americangraduate.org.

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