San Diego County is transforming the image of school lunch through a
program called California Thursdays,
which has a mission to serve California-grown food to California kids
in their school cafeterias every Thursday. A dozen of San Diego
County’s school districts are participating in the California
Thursdays program, and the result is an ever-growing number of
healthier, fresher meals serving more than 300,000 (about 60% of all
public K-12) students. Led by the Center for Ecoliteracy, California
Thursdays illustrates the connection between food grown close to home
and improved school health, academic performance, and local
The San Diego County Farm to School (F2S) Taskforce, facilitated by Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP), recognized that California Thursdays is a great match for San Diego County, which is home to the largest number of farms in the country. The F2S Taskforce launched in 2010 to bring together school districts, food distributors, growers, and community partners to begin the conversation about how to bring local food into school cafeterias at a competitive price.
“Farm-to-school is a thriving movement in San Diego County. Over 30 San Diego County districts are now implementing farm-to-school activities and have shifted a total of $7 million of their food purchasing into local and regional foods,” said Colin Cureton, Food Systems Director at CHIP.
The Center for Ecoliteracy and CHIP officially partnered in 2015 to launch the first ever county cohort of California Thursdays schools districts right here in San Diego County.
The two agencies hosted a California Food for California Kids event
at the County Waterfront Park on March 16 to highlight the local
districts and growers participating in California Thursdays. The event
invited the community to see and taste a sample of the healthy,
locally sourced school meal offerings.
Programs like California Thursdays have been instrumental in helping San Diego County become a national leader in farm to school.
“The Taskforce has helped us grow farm-to-school together as a County, and has helped Vista Unified’s nutrition services team live up to our district’s mission of being a model of excellence and innovation, ” said Amy Haessly, Nutrition Education & Training Supervisor at Vista Unified School District. Here is the list of the districts and growers that shared California Thursday menu offerings at the event.
Aligned under the Live Well San Diego vision, the County of San Diego and community partners are hoping to expand the farm to fork movement in San Diego beyond schools. The County has its own standards for sourcing fresh, healthy, and (when possible) locally grown or raised meals through the development of Eat Well Standards. These standards will consider the nutritional, environmental, and economic impacts of the foods and beverages purchased and consumed, and promote a healthy food system.
Supervisor Ron Roberts announced at the March 16 event that he and
Supervisor Greg Cox will work together to make sure that the County’s
standards mirror the efforts happening in local schools and to
increase local foods in County cafeterias and meals.
What You Can Do
Purchasing foods grown, raised and/or processed in California can help encourage healthy, seasonal diets, while supporting local farms and the economy. Look for the local, regional, and California labels.