By Kathy Chouteau
Amid school closures during the pandemic, one bright spot has been the partnership between Conscious Kitchen and the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD), which has resulted in the distribution of 100 percent free organic food boxes to the school community on a weekly basis.
According to Conscious Kitchen, the partnership kicked off in November 2020, spurring the shift from conventional food products and produce to all-organic options in the WCCUSD’s food boxes, with increasing quantities each week. They’re distributed each Thursday by volunteers at 15 school distribution locations.
“The shift to all organic assists families in a time of need and supports local farms and ranches. And, families have the opportunity to take the organic food and cook healthy meals together,” said WCCUSD Superintendent Matthew Duffy in his March 12 newsletter to the school community, calling it “a silver lining during this pandemic.”
As an example of the USDA-certified organic food box contents, the first one distributed by WCCUSD volunteers included: Ground beef, peanut butter, oats, sweet potato crackers, white jasmine rice, plant-based yogurt, Cara Cara oranges, carrots, onions and maple syrup.
March 4 marked the first time that the curbside box pickups for 21,000 children had built up to featuring “100% USDA certified organic fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, protein and more” to prepare the meals, according to Conscious Kitchen. Per the organization, the collaboration has channeled $3.7 million since its inception into local economies to purchase 2.6 million pounds of organic food for 7.4 million meals to feed Bay Area children. Educational materials and recipes included in the boxes help families “make the most” of the contents.
“With both need and demand from families on the rise, state and federal funding in place, and a direct price-comparable supply chain to support local farmers and producers amid pandemic challenges, the organic food boxes are slated to continue during school closures,” stated Conscious Kitchen.
The organization added that, when in-person learning restarts, the partners’ collective goal is to increase the WCCUSD’s central kitchen’s “organic procurement” by 50 percent.
Learn more about the WCCUSD free curbside food boxes here.