Tag Archives: school lunches

A revolution in SFUSD school food

If you live in San Francisco, a revolution is coming to a school cafeteria near you  . . .  Revolution Foods, that is.   Tonight, the Board voted unanimously (6-0, with Commissioner Mendoza absent) to award Oakland-based Revolution Foods with an 18-month contract worth $13.5 million  to provide pre-cooked, pre-plated fresh meals (mostly breakfasts and lunches) to students in SFUSD.

This is big news for so many reasons:

  • The contract represents a shift in attitude towards student nutrition. It calls for fresh, not frozen entrees, and specifies that meals must be served to students within 24 hours of being prepared.  If you accept (which I do) that fresh food = higher quality, then this requirement should bring about a huge improvement in the appeal of meals served to students. In many districts, improving the quality of meals has led to modest improvements in participation. What I hope is that this step will begin a “virtuous cycle” of  increasing participation leading to better financial stability for the food program leading to better quality leading to even higher participation.
  •  The contract also represents an increased financial commitment to school meals in San Francisco. District officials told the Board that the school district is paying its current vendor $1.79 per lunch for elementary school students (up from the $1.59 per elementary lunch the district paid in 2011-12). Revolution’s bid for the new contract came to $1.95 per elementary lunch. Revolution was also the lowest bidder. The current vendor, Preferred Meal Systems of Illinois, bid $2.26 per elementary lunch for the same terms. Still,  the bottom line is that the district will now be paying more per meal than it has in the past. In my reasoning (and one of the reasons I supported the new contract), we also will get more for our money.
  • Finally, the contract also represents a huge increase in Revolution’s daily meal production in Northern California — according to co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Kirsten Tobey, the company is currently producing 33,000 lunches a day in its Oakland kitchens; with the addition of the San Francisco Unified account, it will have to produce at least 22,000 more lunches each day.  Even for one of the nation’s fastest-growing companies, this will be a big lift for Revolution, but Ms. Tobey assured the Board the company can handle it. She said Revolution has already begun increasing refrigeration capacity and is alerting suppliers that their orders will be increasing as well.

Revolution’s foods will start appearing in SFUSD cafeterias on Monday, Jan. 7, the first day of school following the Winter break (and it’s a good thing, too, as sources tell me there was no backup plan if the Board had turned down the contract).  Talk about working without a (hair)net.  Once they’ve had a week or so to settle in, let me know what you think!

Highlighting S.F.’s school lunch improvement

This CNN piece highlights the improvements in S.F.’s school meals that have been brought about through the hard work and collaboration of our Director of Student Nutrition Services, Ed Wilkins, and the Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee. (Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture comes off as a moron, but that’s another story). The takeaway message? If you want school meal improvements to continue, $2.74 per meal isn’t enough! Congress is proposing a six-cent increase in that amount, but what we really need is for reimbursements to be indexed to reflect higher or lower costs of living in different parts of the country. $2.74 goes a lot further in parts of the Midwest than it does in California.

S.F.’s school meals have improved a lot, however, in the time Mr. Wilkins has been running things and I want to be sure he gets the credit for bringing in far more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and a point-of-sale system that has allowed us to provide improved choices to all students at middle and high schools. I recently had lunch with students at Francisco MS and honestly, it was fine — guess who is going to strongly encourage her soon-to-be middle-schooler to eat school lunch more often? Photos from an actual SF Unified middle school lunch service appear below (Top – salad bar; Middle – my turkey and cheese sandwich was freshly-made; Bottom – lots of choices! The day I ate, students could choose between a chicken-stir-fry, whole wheat pasta bake, a sandwich, a bean and cheese burrito, or a bagel with sun butter and trail mix — all entrees come with salad bar, milk, applesauce and a piece of fruit):