June 29—Over the past few years, Berkeley, Calif.’s school district has made national news with its school lunch improvements. Now, Berkeley’s neighbor Oakland is trying to get a food revolution going, too. The Oakland Unified School District serves about 6 and a half million meals per year. This volume makes the task of overhauling the school food system a daunting one. While Berkeley’s school district has 9,400 students, with about 40% qualifying for free or reduced lunch, Oakland Unified has 38,000 students, with over 70% qualifying. At some schools, this number is over 90%.
District-wide, Oakland schools serve about 9,000 breakfasts per day, 21,000 lunches, 8,500 snacks, and now 500 suppers. Given this high demand, Oakland’s school district recently undertook a study on how to improve its Nutrition Services department, responsible for school meals. The report, a partnership with the Center for Eco Literacy, recommends facilities improvements, fresher and more organic ingredients, and the construction of a large central commissary with an organic farm. In a district where many students eat up to five times a day at school, these are big issues.