What if we could feed our students the nutritious, delicious and sustainably sourced food they truly deserve?

Well, when schools in the Sausalito Marin City School District open their doors this August, they will do just that, by becoming the first 100 percent organic and non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) school district in the country!

Students from Bayside MLK Academy in Marin City, California. Photo credit: Turning Green

That’s right: More than 500 students at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy (Marin City) and Willow Creek Academy (Sausalito) in Marin County, California, will eat sustainably sourced meals this year, all prepared on-site through The Conscious Kitchen.

Turning Green launched The Conscious Kitchen pilot program in August 2013 together with Cavallo Point Lodge, the Sausalito Marin City School District, Whole Foods Market and Good Earth Natural Foods. The pilot served 156 students at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy in Marin City, California. In two years, the program saw a steep decrease in disciplinary cases, increased attendance and a greater sense of community. Now, The Conscious Kitchen is expanding to serve Willow Creek Academy, the other school in the Sausalito Marin City School District.

Student helping to serve lunch to his friends as part of the Conscious Kitchen Ambassadors team. Photo credit: Turning Green

“Students everywhere are vulnerable to pesticide residues and unsafe environmental toxins,” says Judi Shils, founder and executive director of Turning Green. “Not only does this program far exceed USDA nutritional standards, but it ties the health of our children to the health of our planet. It’s the first program to say that fundamentally, you cannot have one without the other.”

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The Conscious Kitchen rethinks school food based on five foundational terms: Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal and Non-GMO, or FLOSN. All food is organic and non-GMO, and more than 90 percent of all produce is sourced from local farmers and purveyors.

Criteria for The Conscious Kitchen: fresh, local, organic, seasonal, non-GMO school lunch and no compromises. Photo credit: Turning Green

This program is the first to take a stand against GMOs. While the long-term effects of GMOs are still uncertain, a growing body of evidence links them to a variety of health risks and environmental damage. An estimated 80 percent of items on most supermarket shelves contain GMOs, and they are ubiquitous in school food programs.

Sourcing food from our local farmers market in San Rafael, California. Photo credit: Turning Green

“Most people don’t realize that GMOs are everywhere, especially in processed foods,” says Justin Everett, executive chef at Cavallo Point Lodge, who serves as the consulting chef for The Concious Kitchen. “By embracing fresh, local, organic, non-GMO food, this program successfully disrupts the cycle of unhealthy, pre-packaged, heat and serve meals that dominate school kitchens.”

Meals are accompanied by a garden and nutrition curriculum that teaches students about where their food comes from, how it’s grown and why it’s good for them. Through this approach, The Conscious Kitchen hopes to curb childhood obesity while cultivating young champions of sustainable food.

For more information on The Conscious Kitchen, visit www.theconscious.kitchen. Here’s to nourishing our students, one delicious FLOSN meal at a time!

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