by Tanya Henry
“Bonjour Chef G,” respond students at Willow Creek Academy, where, thanks to a determined parent, a willing community and plenty of support, the school now has Chef Guillaume Pfahl preparing Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal and Non-GMO (FLOSN) food for 370-plus students five days a week.
The K-8 charter school that opened in 2002 and started with 37 students sits on a sprawling 14-acre campus with four vegetable gardens, chickens and a creek. It serves a diverse student body within Sausalito Marin City School District and with as many as 50 percent of the 377 students qualifying for free and reduced lunches (through the National School Lunch Program), the school receives $50,000 yearly in subsidies. Until last year, Willow Creek had contracted with Revolution Foods to provide lunches for their students at a cost of $3.75 per lunch.
Though school lunches have improved over the years, parent Yasmine McGrane saw an opportunity for her children’s school to do something radically different. She reached out to The Conscious Kitchen, an organization dedicated to helping schools implement sustainable food programs, and brought them on board. In addition, she contacted food pioneer Alice Waters and toured the Berkeley-based Edible Schoolyard. Local restaurateurs Tera and Alfredo Ancona of Cibo chipped in with a dinner that raised $10,000 for a new program, and Cavallo Point also lent its support to the school’s new planned food program.
“Over 50 parents showed up to our board meeting,” McGrane says of the meeting where teachers and parents unanimously voted to revamp the existing food program at their school. With enough funds raised (in under one year), McGrane led the charge in bringing in Chef G, outfitting the kitchen with new equipment and building a kitchen team.
When school started back this fall, the kids were able to eat their lunches in a renovated multi-purpose room—aka the dining hall—complete with Mason jars filled with flowers and herbs from the school’s gardens. Best of all, Chef Guillaume had prepared fresh, organic meals for them—introducing items like quinoa, salads, yellow watermelons and much more.
Head of School Royce Conner couldn’t be more pleased that Willow Creek Academy and fellow Sausalito school, Bayside Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy, have succeeded in becoming part of the very first school district in the country to provide a sustainable, nutritious, non-GMO school meal program for their students.
“It’s all for the kids,” Conner says.