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School Lunch Tour: Capistrano Unified School District

Experiencing what school lunch can be.

Salad dishes are placed on a conveyor belt to be wrapped at the Eat Real food preparation facilities in San Juan Capistrano.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

We already know that America’s public schools are our country’s largest restaurant chain, but we believe they can also be the best restaurant in town. Our participating districts are proving it! That’s why we’ve started the School Lunch Tour series — a chance for local district leaders, legislators, farmers, vendors, neighbor districts, parents, and donors to experience for themselves what school lunch can be.

School Lunch Tour Series Kickoff

We kicked off our School Lunch Tour Series on May 13th at Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) in San Juan Capistrano, California. CUSD, who certified Eat Real Green last October, is the 9th largest district in California, serving 42,000 kids.

Kristin Hilleman, director Food & Nutrition Services for CUSD, talks about her companies mission providing quality food for the students of Capistrano Unified School District. Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

They work miracles with limited facilities, which we experienced firsthand when their Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Kristin Hilleman, took us on a tour of their central kitchen. The foodservice team that day was busy packing up fresh, local salads to be distributed to campuses, organizing deliveries, and scratch cooking a new seasonal menu special: fresh corn elote.

Kristin Hilleman, director of Food & Nutrition Services for CUSD, left, takes administrators and food preparation personal on a tour of the school facilities in San Juan Capistrano. Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

This is school food

The 30 attendees of the tour were lucky enough to taste that elote — along with crudite and housemade ranch dressing, Mary’s Free Range Chicken drumsticks, barbeque pulled pork, chicken potstickers and broccoli, freshly baked cornbread, and local citrus from Dickinson Family Farms.

Eat Real CEO Nora LaTorre displays a map showing the various farms where they source food from for CUSD students. Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Guests enjoyed the local flavors while hearing more about the partnership between Eat Real and CUSD from Hilleman and Eat Real CEO Nora LaTorre. After a lively discussion about the future of school food, the guests got to harken back to their own childhoods, boarding the school bus that would take them back to their cars.

Building a movement

The food and facilities were impressive, but the real treat was feeling the energy and excitement of CUSD’s ecosystem of support. Something electric happens when all the heroes responsible for real food at school — the foodservice team leading the charge, the farmers and suppliers who grow and make the ingredients, the school board and leaders, parents, donors and partners — get into a room together to experience what we’re making possible together. It was an energizing day that has already led to new opportunities for CUSD’s team.

The tour group at Eat Real food preparation facilities in San Juan Capistrano, including board members Lisa Davis and Gila Jones, for Capistrano Unified School District. Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Thank you to all who attended, but especially Kristin Hilleman, CUSD’s Nutrition Specialist Shannon Illingworth, and their entire foodservice team. It was an incredible kickoff to our tour. We can’t wait for the next one!

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. 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.