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Behind the Scenes with Three Eat Real School Districts

One of the favorite parts of our jobs at Eat Real is getting the opportunity to visit the schools participating in our certification program. Recently, our team made three trips across the Bay Area to see first-hand how School Nutrition Directors across the region are transforming school food. We also had the good fortune to dine on some of the delicious dining options being currently served to students in Eat Real school districts.

Mt. Diablo Unified School District

In a special treat for our staff and members of our Board of Directors, we recently had the opportunity to visit Mt. Diablo Unified School District, the first district certified by Eat Real in California. We were welcomed by Dominic Machi, the district’s Director of Food & Nutrition Services and Warehouse and one of the leading school food authorities in the state.

The tour started at one of the most impressive parts of the food service program in Mt. Diablo, a cavernous new warehouse opened in 2021 that serves as a central distribution center for the district’s 52 schools and 32,000 students. Mt. Diablo is committed to sourcing as much food as possible from local sources including Mary’s Chicken, CreamCo Meats, and dozens of other local businesses. As the day came to end, we enjoyed a school staple for lunch: pizza! However, this wasn’t any ordinary pizza. It was prepared with a locally-made whole grain crust, low sugar tomato sauce, and organic, grass-fed cheese.

One of the main outcomes of Eat Real’s certification program is to help schools re-imagine lunch classics to make them more nutritious for students. The pizza we enjoyed at Mt. Diablo is just one example of this work in action!

Natomas Unified School District

As one of Eat Real’s newest cohort of school partners and one of the most diverse school districts in America, it was an honor for our team to recently meet with school nutrition leaders at Natomas Unified School District. Joining us were representatives from Raley’s and Kitchen Table Advisors.

Our day started with Vince Caguin, Executive Director of Nutrition Services and Warehousing and Jen Orosco, Director of Nutrition Services and Warehousing showing us around the Natomas central kitchen where food prep is done for the entire district, encompassing 19 schools and 15,000 students.

For lunch, the team got to try two brand new (and delicious!) menu items being tested–a Hawaiian lunch plate and Salvadoran pupusas–and saw a demonstration of how these dishes are made by the district’s chefs. Eat Real emphasizes the importance of incorporating culturally relevant foods into school lunch menus. Natomas does an incredible job of collaborating with their students and staff to make this happen!

Morgan Hill Unified School District

On a recent sunny morning in the South Bay, the Eat Real team was joined by representatives from the Obama Presidential Foundation, Vitamix Foundation, Edible Schoolyard Project, and the Alice Waters Institute for a tour of two schools within Morgan Hill Unified School District. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Director of Student Nutrition, Michael Jochner, and saw first hand the healthy lunch options on display for elementary age students at El Toro Health Science Academy. On the day we were there, baby carrots and locally grown navel oranges were two of the popular items selected by students.

Next, we made the short trip down the road to Live Oak High School where we saw the district’s leading school food program in action and got to tour Morgan Hill’s high-tech Freight Farm–a fully functional shipping container farm that allows the school district to grow 60% of the lettuce needed for the entire school district on site with less than 5 gallons of water a day! 

After dining on a delicious school lunch of chef’s salads and teriyaki chicken with brown rice, we thanked our hosts and hit the road.

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