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It Takes a Village to Transform School Food

Serving thousands of students nutritious meals every day takes a dedicated team of school food professionals. From the nutrition staff and chefs who create the recipes with local ingredients, to the administrators who support these changes, to the communities who care about an equitable cafeteria experience for their students, it truly takes a special group to nourish the next generation.

This culture of teamwork is clearly evident at Walnut Creek School District (WCSD). Located in the California Bay Area, WCSD serves over 3,300 students at seven schools. After joining Eat Real’s second cohort in 2019, WCSD has continued to invest significant time and effort updating kitchen infrastructure and training staff to achieve their vision of providing more scratch-cooked meals to their students.

After all this hard work, Eat Real is thrilled to announce that WCSD has become the third district in the country to achieve Eat Real Certification at the Silver Level. This is a huge accomplishment and means that WCSD has been evaluated on 10 different standards, covering everything from nutrition to sustainability and transparency, which go above and beyond federal and state child nutrition program regulations.

Greek Salad2
Greek Salad
Kiwis - Sunrise Kiwi, Gridley CA


Highlights from WCSD’s Eat Real Certification at the Silver Level include: 

  • Sourcing 66% of produce served in cafeterias locally (a 34% increase from 2019)
  • Removing an average of seven pounds of added sugar per student per year from breakfast grains alone 
  • Growing lunch participation by 73% and breakfast by a whopping 2400% over the last four years!

Under the leadership of Child Nutrition Supervisor Rebecca Steffler, the Child Nutrition Services team at WCSD cooks as much as possible, continually testing new products and creating seasonal recipes that introduce students to new flavors and ingredients. Examples include their edamame fried rice, plant-based enchilasagna, and greek salad with scratch made balsamic dressing.

They also source from local purveyors as much as possible, including free-range chicken with no antibiotics ever from Mary’s Chicken, organic, pasture-raised ground beef from Mindful Meats, and organic cheese from family-owned Rumiano Cheese Company. The Eat Real assessment also found that up to 48% of their produce is sourced from small- to mid-sized farms.

The team also continues to make huge strides in tackling the issue of added sugar. They redeveloped their breakfast menu and transitioned from sugary to savory breakfast options under their scratch cooking program expansion. WCSD’s breakfast menu now includes breakfast burritos, egg bites, greek yogurt with granola, and a housemade cinnamon muffin with only ¼ teaspoons of added sugar! (A coffee shop muffin can have more than seven teaspoons of added sugar.) 

WCSD’s Eat Real journey began in 2019 with the district’s Lunch Experience Task Force. With support from the Superintendent and district leadership, the parent and student-led task force advocated for a culture centered around the students in the cafeteria. Thanks to universal meals in California, breakfast after the bell program implementation, and the continued dedication to scratch-cooking, the district’s meal participation has surged. With a full-time Brigaid Chef joining the child nutrition services team last fall, they continue to raise the bar and ensure school meals are an integral and positive experience for all their students.

CEO of Eat Real, Nora LaTorre, says, “Walnut Creek School District and its community demonstrate what student-centered meals look like in schools. When you walk into the school kitchens, you can immediately sense the dedication and love the staff pour into the food they serve their students.”

WCSD’s Eat Real Certification at the Silver Level is only the beginning for the child nutrition services team. Join us in celebrating WCSD’s dedication to providing the best delicious and nutritious foods for their students!

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