First school district with 100% organic, non-GMO meals makes the grade

First school district with 100% organic, non-GMO meals makes the grade

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“What’s quinoa?” It’s a question that’s conceivably crossed the mind of just about any American consumer who has either shopped at Whole Foods in the past few years or who has adopted a healthier lifestyle complete with burpees, kale smoothies and kettlebells.

However, it’s also a question that students at Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy and Willow Creek Academy in California’s Sausalito Marin City School District will likely never have to ponder as adults. That is because the district is the first in the nation to serve meals that are 100% organic and non-GMO. The sustainably sourced meals will not only incorporate healthy ingredients such as quinoa into lunches, but will also extend to the breakfasts and snacks served to the more than 500 students in the district. The meals will be prepared on-site through The Conscious Kitchen, a program that partners with schools, guiding them to implement food programs based on five foundational terms: fresh, local, organic, seasonal, non-GMO (FLOSN).

In a phone interview with market research firm Packaged Facts, publisher of the July 2015 report Non-GMO Foods: U.S. and Global Market Perspective, 2nd Edition, a school official at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy stated that the goal is to effectively enlighten students’ minds while nourishing their bodies. The hope is that students will develop a lifelong appreciation of healthy foods (yes even an eventual appreciation of quinoa is anticipated). Students are also encouraged to provide feedback on the ingredients used to determine which products they’d like to see incorporated more often or less often in their school meals.

The establishment of a school district serving 100% non-GMO foods is an important development. Even though the long-term effects of genetically modified foods remain unclear, the battle between pro-and anti-GMO forces shows no sign of abating. If anything it seems to be getting more intense. In the U.S., 80% to 90% of such key crops as corn, soybeans, and cotton are grown from genetically modified (GM) seeds.

Packaged Facts data published in Non-GMO Foods: U.S. and Global Market Perspective, 2nd Edition reveals that more than four in 10 survey respondents believe that GMO food products are unsafe to eat. In addition, consumers with children in the home are 25% more inclined than average to say GMO foods are unsafe. This tendency is particularly pronounced in households with school-age children between the ages of six and 11.

California-based non-profit Turning Green (TG) launched The Conscious Kitchen in August 2013 as a pilot program at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy. Through partnerships with Whole Foods Market and others, Turning Green “reimagined” school food away from unhealthy, processed meals to transition Bayside’s school kitchen into one that produced hundreds of fresh, local, organic, seasonal, and non-GMO meals made from scratch daily. The addition of Willow Creek Academy into the program will be new for the Fall 2015 school year.

-- By Daniel Granderson