September 29, 2014, Santa Barbara, CA: The Orfalea Foundation School Food Initiative (SFI) announced today that it has awarded $1.2 Million to the Lompoc Unified School District for the remodeling of its central kitchen, which provides scratch-cooked entrees and freshly prepared salad bar choices to the district’s schools.
Discussing the grant, SFI Director Kathleen de Chadenèdes said, “LUSD Food Service, under the leadership of Kathy Bertelsen, has been an engaged, progressive partner that has demonstrated an ability to envision, initiate, complete and evaluate projects. In 2011, she agreed to a pilot scratch cooking program at two of the district elementary schools after having success with student acceptance of scratch-cooked items at high schools and middle schools. The pilot’s results exceeded expectations. Students selected the scratch-cooked entrees 2:1 over the processed, prepackaged choice and no additional expenses were incurred. Kathy went to the School Board with the results of the pilot and received their approval to implement a plan, with the help of SFI, to bring healthy scratch cooking and salad bars to all of its sites.”
“Kathy and her team have done a remarkable job not only improving the healthfulness and quality of food in the district, but also in marketing the improvements to students, staff, and community,” said Orfalea Foundation President Lois Mitchell. “The ‘Fresh and Real’ brand created for the district’s food services is the best kind of marketing, because it tells the plain truth.”
The Orfalea Foundation reports that a contributing factor for its decision was the fact that Ms. Bertelsen has the support of LUSD’s new Superintendent, Trevor McDonald, who believes that good nutrition has an impact on closing the achievement gap for many of LUSD’s students, and Assistant Superintendent Sid Haro, who has prioritized the creation of a culture of health and wellness at each school. “This is a powerful team that understands the “whole child” approach to education,” says de Chadenedes. “The whole child comes to school; not just a brain. They need good nutrition and plenty of physical activity to succeed.”
The central kitchen remodel will feature an additional cooking line with a tilt skillet, two steam-jacketed kettles, a roll-in combi-oven and exhaust hood; an additional blast chiller; doubled walk-in refrigeration capacity; the relocation of food service administrative offices which will be replaced by a new area for processing fresh produce; an additional dish machine for pot and pan washing; new flooring; an upgraded HVAC system and a new security and back-up system for all refrigerated and frozen storage units.
70% of the district’s 72 food service employees have been trained at SFI’s Culinary Boot Camp. This project will build on SFI’s investment by making LUSD’s central kitchen a model site for a cook/chill system producing healthy scratch-cooked entrees and freshly prepared local produce.
de Chadenèdes adds, “LUSD has become a major champion of SFI and the story of its transformation will be a lasting legacy for SFI and the Orfalea Foundation. LUSD benefits from community support, but many challenges remain. The rates of childhood overweight and obesity in Lompoc are the highest in Santa Barbara County, according to the results of the California Physical Fitness Test. 64% of its students are eligible to receive free- and reduced-price meals. Several of its schools have Program Improvement status. Given the leadership, fiscal and programmatic accountability and commitment of the LUSD administrators and the Nutrition Services Department, this district has the ability to reverse this trend and affect lasting change in the lives of its students by offering healthy, appealing school meals, incorporating food literacy in its curriculum and creating a culture of health and wellness on its campuses.”