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North Monterey County Unified School District is Eat Real Certified!

Eat Real is thrilled to announce that North Monterey County Unified School District is officially Eat Real Certified! North Monterey County Unified School District (NMCUSD), located in central California, serves over 4,500 students across seven schools. Nearly 90% of NMCUSD’s students are from Hispanic and Latinx families, many of whom work in the food and agriculture sector. The students and their families are at the heart and center of everything NMCUSD’s  Nutrition Services and Wellness team does — from increasing scratch-cooking to ensuring access to healthy local produce and animal proteins, to building stronger local economies and communities.

The leadership team at NMCUSD learned of Eat Real through Taylor Farms. It’s been a culmination of intentional actions over two and a half years and we are so excited to share this incredible achievement. Check out the micro-documentary they produced about NMCUSD and Eat Real below.

The following are some of the major wins for NMCUSD in achieving green tier certification: 

Located in the “Salad Bowl of the Nation,” NMCUSD prides itself in the ability to procure as much local produce as possible. Over half of all their fruits and vegetables are sourced locally, a 22% increase from their initial assessment. Additionally, NMCUSD more than doubled the number of local farmers they work with.

Scratch made hummus and veggie packs

Students can pick up gala apples from First Fruits in Prescott, WA nantes carrots from Lakeside Organics in Watsonville, cherry tomatoes & strawberries from New Generation Organics in Aromas, and lettuce, celery & kale from Taylor Farms. And the local sourcing doesn’t stop at fruits and veg. NMCUSD has brought in Dos Pisanos, an artisan bread company led by school nutrition leaders, for nearly all their bread products, and together they are developing a special torta bun, based on NMCUSD’s student demand.

Student favorite fruit and yogurt smoothies are a hit at breakfast

To be able to cook raw proteins, you need staff and a kitchen infrastructure that are prepared to handle them. As part of their transition to scratch cooking, NMCUSD has invested in both. Their staff cook on average 300 lbs of high-quality meat per week, sourcing no-hormones, antibiotic-free, sustainably raised raw beef, pork shoulder, and chicken drumsticks from California vendor CreamCo meats.

Local chicken drumstick over whole grain rice pilaf

Minimal Processing: 21% increase in minimally processed ingredients

Building up a scratch-cooking program is a culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and investments in staff training and infrastructure. Over a two year period, NMCUSD increased their use of minimally processed ingredients by an average of 21% across all menus.

NMCUSD team member preparing condiments from scratch

Kim McKinnon, team member at NMCUSD’s Nutrition Services and Wellness preparing bolognese sauce

Today, NMCUSD students will find chef’s salads with house-made dressings as well as scratch-made pizza sauce, pesto, hummus, and salsa. Student favorites include smoothies for breakfast, along with pozole, and carnitas tortas for lunch.

Chicken pozole with elote

Scratch-made pizza sauce

They’re going to keep building on their wins, increasing their scratch/speed-scratch recipes and staff training in partnership with Brigaid and Brigaid’s program chef, Stefanie. They are also continuing to shift their purchasing power to local, organic small and mid-sized farms and local businesses, as well as increasing the raw proteins brought in. (Here’s an exciting one for sandwich lovers: NMCUSD plans to start slicing their deli meats in-house.) They’re also loving the student feedback and plan to create more opportunities for it to happen, like taste tests.

You can follow NMCUSD’s journey to making school food more delicious and nutritious for all on their Instagram. Please join us in celebrating North Monterey County’s incredible achievement and their continued dedication to bettering the food system and bringing real food to every table for all students!

Eat Real nourishes the future of American school children by working with school districts through their 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.

Access to real food on a day to day basis is a goal everyone can get behind. 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).