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Accelerating Farm to School Regenerative Organic

On a beautiful sunny day surrounded by rolling hills and endless green pasture filled with over 100 types of native grasses, Eat REAL  hosted a group of leaders who all share a common goal: making schools the largest purchasers of regenerative organic food. Food Service Directors representing 275,000 students in over 400 schools gathered alongside the support of The First Partner of CA, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) representatives, Top Chef Chef Tu, and other nonprofit leaders. Together, they discussed what it would take to reach this new level of farm to school purchasing with the group’s combined $130M in buying power. 

“Farm to School is reenvisioning school meals. Together we are feeding over a quarter of a million California’s children and their families by providing nutrient-dense, local, climate smart foods at school that are culturally relevant and delicious,” First Partner of CA, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, said in her welcome to the group. This show of support and commitment comes as the Governor’s office released revisions to the proposed 2022 – 2023 CA budget, including an investment of over $1.8B in school nutrition programs.   

Carrie Richards of Richards Ranch, a fifth-generation regenerative organic operation, led the group on a tour of the pasture to discuss what it means to be regenerative organic. “When I learned that you could sequester carbon using grazing practices, my mind was blown. I was like, ‘Why would you do it any other way?’” Richards shared. Allowing the cattle to graze in patterns that do not overextend the pasture will enable natural regrowth of plant life and sequester enough carbon to create a greenhouse gas footprint that is 66 percent lower than conventional commodity animal farming.  

The event successfully strengthened the connection between funders, producers, and processors, to those serving students, along with organizations that will support the connection and growth of the movement. An open and honest conversation between the parties sparked ideas to navigate the barriers in school nutrition purchasing. After the event, 100% of the school leaders in attendance had either committed to or expressed serious interest in purchasing regenerative organic ingredients for their meal programs. 

“School districts need to come together to provide a better option for our students,” urged Juan Cordon, Food and Nutrition Services Director at Vacaville Unified.

Foods grown using regenerative organic practices are higher in nutrients due to healthier soil, are free of chemicals, and support the continued supply of these foods. This vastly benefits our society as a whole, but most importantly, children. If these are the foods we raise our children with, the values we instill, and the practices we educate, the benefits stretch far beyond the generation we serve today.

“There’s no better argument for re-regionalizing our supply chain, for futureproofing for our children. Re-regionalizing our supply chains and actually investing in real agriculture, real regenerative practices – there’s no better argument than what we are seeing right now [at the farm & the people on the tour],” said Heather Frambach of Kitchen Table Advisors.

Huge thanks to Richards Ranch, the CDFA, the Office of the First Partner, CAFF, Beef2Institution, Health Care Without Harm, Sierra Harvest, Cream Co, Kitchen Table Advisors, and TomKat Ranch for their partnership in making it such a special day. Special thanks to World Centric, MIIR, Rancho Gordo, Three Forks Bakery, the National Exchange Hotel, and Patagonia for believing in this important work. 

Did you know that restoring the soil’s health through regenerative agriculture has the power to sequester/draw down carbon from the atmosphere? With your support of Eat REAL, Farm to School, and Regenerative Organic Agriculture we can mitigate climate change and nourish the next generation to help them live long and happy lives. t

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