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New CC+S Study: Are California Public School Kitchens Scratch-Cooking Ready?

Posted on by jvincent

A new Center for Cities + Schools study in collaboration with Conscious Kitchen and The Edible Schoolyard Project.

One way to serve healthier school meals is by incorporating “scratch-cooking” techniques, whereby many or most of the ingredients are prepared onsite from a raw and/or minimally processed form, into school food service programs. However, the vast majority of public school kitchens across the U.S. and in California are not designed and/or equipped to scratch cook. Raw and/or unprocessed food ingredients have shorter shelf lives and fewer added preservatives, thus requiring specialized kitchen infrastructure and equipment for receiving, storing, and preparing.

To understand the opportunities and challenges to increasing healthy school meals across California, this study investigates the scratch-cooking readiness of the state’s public schools’ kitchens. We conducted a web-based survey of food service directors in California public school districts. Two hundred directors from 200 school districts responded.

Key Findings

  • Scratch cooking is happening in all types and sizes of public schools in California.
     
  • Nearly one-third of all responding school districts report high levels of scratch cooking in their district while only 16% report that they do little-to-no scratch cooking currently.
     
  • Rural school districts are more likely to report high levels of scratch cooking.
     
  • Majority non-white school districts report less scratch cooking than majority white districts.
     
  • Districts with high levels of scratch cooking employ more food service workers and more full-time employees compared to districts that do some or little-to-no scratch cooking.
     
  • Key challenges to expanding scratch cooking are having skilled staff and the necessary facilities and equipment to scratch cook.
     
  • School districts rely heavily on local funding for kitchen facility and equipment upgrades.
     
  • More than one-quarter (29%) of school districts report serving at least some organic / pesticide-free foods; the highest income districts are more than twice as likely as the lowest income districts to report serving at least some organic / pesticide-free foods.
     
  • An estimated $5.81 billion is needed to make all California public school kitchen facilities scratch-cooking capable.

Recommendations

Based on the findings from our study we lay out the following framework of recommendations to increase scratch cooking and healthier food options in California public schools. California’s Office of Farm to Fork (OFtF) could potentially be a “hub” to help lead and coordinate this work.

  • Invest to catalyze change. Strategic investment is needed to build scratch cooking capability across the state, prioritizing areas where key funding barriers exist.
     
  • Establish a statewide task force on healthy school meals. A concerted effort is needed to establish a plan for expanding access to healthy meals in California public schools.
     
  • Learn from existing ingenuity. We need to better understand successful scratch cooking strategies already underway.

View Full Report

View Executive Summary


California School Bonds on the November 2020 Ballot: Are they equitable?

Posted on by Jeff Vincent and José Lopez

By Jeff Vincent and José Lopez, Center for Cities + School at UC Berkeley   In each California election, there are sure to be school bonds on local ballots across the state. November 3, 2020 is no different: 55 school districts have general obligation (G.O.) bonds for school facilities revenue going before voters. Two districts – Gonzales USD in Monterey County and River Delta Joint Union SD in Sacramento County – each have 2 bonds before voters. In total, there is just under $12 billion in local bond authority going before voters across the state to modernize and construct public…


Y-PLAN Peninsula Students Lift Up Affordable Housing Proposals, Their Client Facebook is Listening

Posted on by Tira Okamoto

Redwood City, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto high school students involved in Y-PLAN, an action research initiative based at the UCB Center for Cities+Schools, are making media headlines as their Project Client Facebook unveils a $1 million dollar accessory dwelling unit project in response to the students’ affordable housing proposals. In print, on air, and on TV screens, Y-PLAN student scholars are sharing their stories as young planners making change in their communities. The Peninsula is facing a rapid increase in housing costs. With rising rents and home prices, long-term residents, who are often people of color, are at…


To Live in the Community You Serve: School District Employee Housing in California

Posted on by Sean Doocy

Faced with high turnover and a shortage of qualified teachers, California school districts are aggressively adopting new strategies to recruit and retain teachers and staff. A prominent and ambitious strategy is employee housing assistance – particularly direct creation of new rental housing. Employee housing strategies by school districts have emerged as a direct response to the housing affordability crisis in California (for both rental and ownership). The housing affordability crunch is most acute in employment-rich coastal urban areas like Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Across California, school districts, local governments, state governments, private developers, nonprofits, and foundations have taken…


Opportunity Zones Should Help Modernize Public School Facilities

Posted on by Mary Filardo and Jeff Vincent

Mary Filardo, 21st Century School Fund Jeff Vincent, Center for Cities and Schools In 2017, we founded [Re]Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition (BASIC), a non-partisan coalition to advocate for a ten-year $100 billion investment as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure package. But reducing inequity in our nation’s public school facilities will take a variety of tools. These tools are needed at the local, state, and federal levels. Could the new federal Opportunity Zone Program help modernize public school facilities in low income communities? One of the provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was the creation of “Opportunity Zones” (OZs). Opportunity Zones are structured to provide…


School as Anchors of Diversity

Posted on by Kfir Mordechay

Across the metropolises of the United States, gentrification is making neighborhoods hardly recognizable. In a short time, what was once a minor force of urban change, gentrification is now sweeping through many cities like a tsunami. By some estimates over the last 15 years, nearly 20 percent of neighborhoods in the 50 largest cities have experienced major gentrification. From New York to Los Angeles, there has been a large influx of middle class families. Some have even begun to do what had long been unthinkable in the post-war decades of white flight from central cities to the suburbs; enroll their…


TOWERS OF POWER: Snapshot of a Future I Want To Inhabit

Posted on by Shirl Buss, PhD.

I am an urban designer and educator.  One of the most joyful things I do is facilitate architecture and urban planning studios for elementary school children in public schools through Youth in Arts and UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN. Like many adults today, I am asking myself how—in my professional role—can I positively contribute to the #MeToo movement for and with the children in my life? How might I, when I work with young people, respond proactively to the gender inequities and injustices that we are witnessing every day?  How can I help both boys and girls express their own power, free from the…


School Facilities Belong in the Nation’s Infrastructure Portfolio

Posted on by Mary Filardo and Jeff Vincent

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently issued its 2017 report card rating 16 different categories of infrastructure. ASCE includes public school facilities in their infrastructure rating—grading them a D+. However, state and federal plans to rebuild and modernize America’s infrastructure, often omit schools from our nation’s infrastructure portfolio.     Public school buildings and grounds need to be fully included in state and federal planning and funding for the nation’s infrastructure.    First, just like other major water, transit, or port infrastructure, school facilities projects require long range planning and forecasting to ensure efficient use of land and other…


School facilities and student physical activity

Posted on by Hannah Thompson, PhD

National experts recommend that, for optimal health, youth get at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) a day - which is the kind of movement that gets you sweating and breathing harder. However, youth are far from meeting this recommendation. And, unfortunately, significant disparities exist by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and income. The Institute of Medicine has, logically, identified the school setting as an ideal venue for increasing access to physical activity among diverse youth. Image Credit: Hannah Thompson However, many obstacles get in the way of students getting MVPA at school. We know that with limited funding, resources,…


Tardiness and Poor School Facility Conditions are Interconnected

Posted on by Amanda Eppley, CC+S

The California Department of Education’s new California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) provides loads of insight for state and local leaders into what makes for healthy school environments…and what doesn’t. A perpetually overlooked aspect of school health and overall school climate is the condition of a school’s facilities and grounds. Here at the Center for Cities + Schools, we’ve looked at this issue in a number of studies  – and we have found alarming patterns of underinvestment in California’s K-12 facilities , which raise serious questions about whether or not children are attending school facilities that are healthy, safe, in good repair,…