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CEL Workshop: A Celebration of California Food and Cultures

CEL Workshop: A Celebration of California Food and Cultures

by Alice Lee Tebo

On November 14, the Center for Ecoliteracy hosted a "Celebration of California Food and Cultures" in Palm Springs. It was a dynamic and delicious day of cooking, learning, and inspiration for 120 school food service leaders from across the state.

Scheduled the day before the California School Nutrition Association Conference, this event was part of our California Food for California Kids™ initiative and our third annual statewide gathering of food service innovators.

Celebration of California Food and Cultures
A Celebration of California Food and Cultures at the Palm Springs Conference Center.

The day kicked off with a wonderful Mexican-American breakfast and a talk from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) on why culture matters in education. Participants were invited to honor an ancestor whose cooking nourished them in a meaningful way by writing his/her name on a card and placing it on a lovely altar created by Ofelia Esparza, a renowned altarista (altar-maker).

Alliance for California Traditional Arts creates an altar
Altarista Ofelia Esparza of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts creates an altar.

The Center for Ecoliteracy's Karen Brown then presented the California Food for California Kids cooking strategy, including its 6-5-4 school lunch framework based on six dishes students know and love, five ethnic flavor profiles, and four seasons.

Middle Eastern/Indian flavor profile
Middle Eastern/Indian flavor profile, created by Alex Pantoia of Coachella Valley Unified School District.

Led by our Rethinking School Lunch Program Manager Adam Kesselman, school district teams rolled up their sleeves and got busy cooking in pop-up kitchens. Many of the recipes came from our popular cookbook Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools.

Lunch was a fabulous feast of the finished dishes.

Pamela Lambert samples Summer Chicken Stew
Pamela Lambert, Alvord Unified's Director of Child Nutrition Services, samples Summer Chicken Stew.

Dr. Janey Thornton, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food and Nutrition, presented the California Food for California Kids 2013 Leadership Award to Rodney Taylor, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Riverside Unified School District.

Six school districts from around the state—Alvord, Fort Bragg, Oakland, San Diego, Turlock, and Ventura—also received California Food for California Kids 2013 Innovation Awards, which recognize the leadership of districts and nutrition services directors in advancing the movement to incorporate fresh, seasonal food in school meals.

CA Food for CA Foods Awards
(Left to right) Ronna Bach, USDA Regional Director of Food and Nutrition Services; Janey Thornton; Scott Soiseth, Director of Child Nutrition for Turlock Unified; Center for Ecoliteracy Executive Director Zenobia Barlow; and Judi Larsen of The California Endowment.

In a lively "Innovation Exchange," participants had time to meet with the award-winners as well as fourth-generation farmer Bob Knight, who founded a food hub of 28 farmers that provides produce to school programs across southern California. Participants also had the opportunity to share their stories on film.

Adam Kesselman interviews Fred Espinosa
The Center for Ecoliteracy's Adam Kesselman interviews Fred Espinosa, the Food Services Acquisition & Production Manager of San Diego Unified School District.

Veteran campaign strategist Larry Tramutola talked about effectively making the case for school food change, while Judi Larsen of The California Endowment shared the promising findings of a new report on school meal work across 10 districts in the state. We wrapped things up in style with a "fiesta gathering"—a fitting end to a day devoted to food, culture, and community.  

Coachella Valley Unified's Nutrition Services Team
Coachella Valley Unified's Nutrition Services Coordinator Alex Pantoja (center) and team.

 

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