By Sophia DeFelice
If Marin County isn’t at the forefront of bringing organic foods to school children, it certainly is a contender now. The College of Marin has been leading the charge with its Novato-based organic farm, aimed at teaching children and adults alike about a lifestyle of healthy eating.
Nanda Schorske, Executive Dean of Indian Valley Campus and Workforce and Economic Development has been at COM for 8 years. Schorske oversees the Organic Farm and Garden at IVC.
“The IVC Organic Farm and Garden was established as a teaching farm, to promote agriculture in Marin for grade school children, as well as to promote local food systems. This is the only teaching farm in Marin. We have 250 varieties of vegetables, this is practically unheard of,” she said. Her passion for organic foods began, “it began while raising five children. Young children are picky eaters because they are sensitive to taste. As their taste buds are awakened to clean, wholesome, fresh foods, this raises the bar and as a result they will want healthy foods through life,” she said.
IVC organic produce has an edge over other organic foods in the market.
“Our foods ripen on the vine so they are going to taste incredible,” said Schorske. “Have you ever had lettuce that was picked an hour ago? What an awakening for the taste buds! This is not just about food shopping, this is about a lifestyle. You connect with what you eat, you connect with the earth, and by supporting the farm you help your community increase access to organic foods. We now provide elementary schools with organic produce for lunches. It’s just fabulous. When we first went into elementary schools in our county, there were children who had never seen kale, or chard, or certain root vegetables. We are here to educate, and provide our community with good, wholesome foods.”
Miguel Villarreal, Director of Food and Nutritional Services for the Novato Unified School District since 2002, has been creating healthy changes for students. His work is getting notice locally and from international celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
Miguel said, “While pursuing a Masters in Business Administration, I realized I was helping young active bodies stay healthy. It was here my passion became focused and I began to connect the 3 C’s, Cafeteria, Classroom and Community to nutrition and wellness.”
Miguel has instituted important changes while at NUSD. “Some of the changes are serving up organic foods from local farms, removing as much processed foods as the budget will allow, as well as eliminating 400 pounds of sugar per day children were consuming. Children in Marin are consuming more vegetables and fruits,” said Villarreal. Americans consume way too much sugar, which leads to all sort of bad health consequences, diabetes, obesity and more. “The process of nutritional education is ongoing from educators, to parents, to the children themselves,” Vilareal said. Today he serves grades K through 12.
In 2011, Jamie Oliver bestowed the Food Hero award on Mr. Villarreal for improving the quality of life of children and of the community. In 2012 Mr. Villarreal received the Golden Carrot Award from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Joe Mueller is the advisor to the Environment Action Club at COM. Mueller has taught for 25 years at COM in the fields of biology, environmental science and ecology. “We are all dependent on our soil, air and the ecology of our planet, our bodies are connected to the earth and our surroundings. The damage to our bodies, to our water systems, to wildlife, and soil is costly.”
Last semester the EAC was instrumental in talking to the owners of the campus cafeteria and getting them to stop using Styrofoam cups. “A win for our environment and a win for our health,” Meuller said.
Before WWII, foods were not sprayed. In that era foods were organic without any need for labels. Things have changed greatly, and not for the better since today’s conventional foods are sprayed with toxic pesticides and chemicals.
Students at COM have an opportunity to be proactive and to express their desire for healthy foods on campus. Last semester the Environmental Action Club had a produce stand selling IVC’s organic farm foods on the Kentfield campus. If you want to see the stand again, and if you want to create changes regarding food options at the Kentfield campus, give the EAC a shout-out online.
In 2009 a survey of Kentfield students revealed they wanted the same things served at Dominican University–fresh, high-quality, flavorful foods at a great price. Dominican’s food is handled by Bon Apétit Management Company. They specialize in creating made-from-scratch menus featuring regional, seasonal, artisan-produced products. Their produce is locally sourced, in other words Farm to Fork.
If you are interested in seeing improvements in the types of food available at the Kentfield bistro cafe, contact Suzy Lee, Operations Manager for Bay Area’s Fresh & Natural Food Services Group, which handles food served on the campus. Suzy is a warm-hearted woman who is open to hearing from customers. Feel free to talk with her about your dietary concerns. She has a suggestion box for student ideas, comments, and recommendations about what you would like to have offered. More likely than not they will be addressed in a timely and substantive manner.