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Capistrano Unified is Eat Real Certified!

Eat Real is proud to announce that Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) is Eat Real Certified, the first district in Southern California to do so! Headquartered in Orange County, CUSD serves 42,000 students and has achieved our green tier certification. The ninth largest district in the state (out of over 1,000 districts), CUSD is the second largest Eat Real partner district. The size and sheer volume of CUSD does not stop the Food and Nutrition Services department from serving the highest quality ingredients for their students.

The partnership started when a CUSD parent, Lynn Choi at Bathgate Elementary, connected Eat Real with Kristin Hilleman, Director of CUSD’s Food and Nutrition Services department. Over 200 staff provide nourishing meals at 55 different school sites for their thousands of students. Unlike a restaurant system that may have standardized equipment and operations, each of these sites is different, including equipment, size and overall infrastructure. A small central kitchen and warehouse prepares breakfast, lunch, and snacks for all 35 elementary schools, while the 12 middle and six high schools have kitchens on-site. The incredible staff go the extra mile, sifting through every box of produce served to ensure high food standards for each student. All together, the CUSD Food and Nutrition Services team serves 2.2 million breakfasts and 2.4 million lunches a year. On a typical day, they are responsible for over 12,000 breakfasts and nearly 14,000 lunches. “Achieving this certification is a tremendous accomplishment,” Kristin says. “I am so proud of our Food and Nutrition Services team. We can do really great, hard things!”   

Here are some of CUSD’s certification wins:  

Quality of animal products: CUSD works with CreamCo to procure grass-fed, organic beef. CUSD has been working with CreamCo for a while, supporting their company’s journey to better serve districts through providing specific products and delivery, helping all school districts achieve higher quality animal proteins. CUSD also serves local milk products that are Certified Humane, air-chilled Animal Welfare GAP Rated and Certified Humane chicken products from Mary’s Chicken, and other antibiotic-free turkey and chicken products. 

Reducing sugar: CUSD no longer offers juice at middle and high schools, which effectively removed 10 pounds of sugar from menus per school year. 

Variety: CUSD expanded their daily fruit and vegetable offerings from an average of two to four options for students, no small feat for a district of their size.

Local sourcing: 36% of their fresh produce comes from area farmers, amounting to over 40,000 pounds of local purchasing per month. They source from Kingsburg Orchards, Kern Ridge Growers, Chelan Fresh, Joyfully Grown and Bee Sweet Citrus. 10% of this sourcing (just over 12,000 pounds a month) is from certified organic producers. 

Planet-friendly meals: CUSD has introduced plant-based options on their elementary menu, providing a 100% plant-based entrée at least once a week.

Each district, no matter the size, has its challenges. While making any adjustment to menus or programs may take more time for a district as large as CUSD, they are ultimately able to influence industry trends given their purchasing power. And that means the changes they’ve made through Eat Real certification can have impacts well beyond the district itself. Long term, CUSD is looking to expand their central kitchen and warehouse to increase their scratch cooking program and store more fresh produce and products to offer their students. They also plan to upgrade their school site kitchens so that each school can do more of their own prep and scratch cooking, in addition to updating service lines to continue making the best experience possible for their students. 

Please join us in celebrating Capistrano’s great achievement and continued work towards raising the school food bar for all! 

Eat Real nourishes the future of American school children by working with school districts through our award-winning K-12 certification program. Food Service leaders are provided both the framework and support they need to make their school menus more delicious, nutritious and planet-sustaining. To achieve Eat Real certification, a district must meet a set of minimum requirements and earn a score of at least 60% to be green tier certified, based on an assessment against the 10 Eat Real Standards (see visual for more details).