Welcome to the Global Food Initiative’s toolkit for improving meals in school districts throughout California and beyond.

This unique website offers a toolkit of curated practical online resources to guide higher education institutions and other educational and community organizations, who work with pre-K-12 schools, to support student access to healthy and sustainable food.

Why Transform School Meals?

School nutrition programs are especially important for combatting hunger and food insecurity and promoting equitable access to healthy food. Over 50 percent of US students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. In California, more than 80 percent of school lunches and 90 percent of school breakfasts served are free or reduced-price. Some schools are now serving up to five meals a day — and sending home backpacks with food for weekends.

Because nutrition is strongly linked to academic achievement, nutrition programs help schools promote equity and provide maximum opportunities for academic success for all students. Students who learn to make healthy food choices reduce long-term healthcare burdens on their families and communities. Meal programs combined with education in the cafeteria, classroom, and garden teach students about the links between food, culture, health, and the environment. School districts use their buying power (districts in California alone serve nearly a billion meals a year) to create markets for sustainably raised food and support local and regional economies and food systems. 

Project Goals and Process

The Good Food for Local Schools toolkit emerged from the Working with Local School Districts to Develop Healthy and Sustainable Dining Options for pre-K–12 Students Best Practices Subcommittee of the University of California Office of the President's Global Food Initiative (GFI). The subcommittee was drawn from throughout the UC system as well as representatives from school districts and experts from community nonprofits working to improve school food. It sought to identify noteworthy resources that reflect innovative thinking and practices related to how University and College students, staff, and faculty members can support healthy and sustainable pre-K–12 school food options.

The subcommittee recommended exemplary curricula, degree and certificate programs, on-campus programs, student-led projects, websites, publications, manuals and how-to guides, policies, organizations, community projects, and other resources. While many of the resources generated are within the UC system, the subcommittee also recommended items that have been developed by other agencies. After the list was generated, a smaller group met and decided which resources to include.

The resources chosen met these criteria: 

  1. The resource is practical and useful to UC’s work to support healthy, sustainable foods for pre-K-12 schools
  2. It is free and is easily accessible to the public online
  3. It addresses at least one of the GFI focus areas 
Moving Forward

The toolkit is intended to assist higher education institutions and other educational and community organizations who work with pre-K-12 schools, by expanding best UC practices to other locations within the UC community, and ultimately exporting best practices and lessons learned to non-UC locations across the state and country. Future work will consist of dissemination of these resources (a long-term goal). The creators of this website also recognize the content on this site is not exhaustive and welcome readers’ suggestions for additional content meeting the criteria listed above.

GFI Pre-K-12 Best Practices Subcommittee Members

Working with Local School Districts to Develop Healthy and Sustainable Dining Options for pre-K–12 Students Best Practices Subcommittee

Wendy Slusser
Associate Vice Provost of the Healthy Campus Initiative and HS Clinical Professor of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Public Health, UCLA

Zenobia Barlow
Executive Director, Center for Ecoliteracy

Laura Benavidez
Deputy Director of Food Services, Los Angeles Unified School District

Aaron Blaisdell
Professor, UCLA

Marianne Brown
Instructor and Master Gardener, UCLA and Mark Twain Middle School

Gail Feenstra
Deputy Director, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, UC Davis

John Fisher
Director of Programs and Partnerships, Life Lab, UC Santa Cruz 

Tim Galarneau
Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, UC Santa Cruz

Ken Hecht
Co-founder and former Executive Director, California Food Policy Advocates

Melissa Infusino
Executive Director, The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education

Laura Kainsinger
Program Manager of Science & Food, UCLA Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology, Division of Life Sciences

Jim Koulias
Deputy Director of Finance and Operations, Center for Ecoliteracy

Hannah Malan
Graduate Student, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Community Health Sciences

Blanca Melendrez
Executive Director, UC San Diego School of Medicine, Center for Community Health, Department of Academic General Pediatrics

Phil Nader
Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, UC San Diego

Kathy O’Byrne
Director, UCLA Center for Community Learning

Michael Prelip
Professor of Community Health Sciences, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health California

D. Andy Rice
ASPIRE Postdoctoral Fellow in Socially Engaged Media, UCLA Undergraduate Education Initiatives

Brad Rumble
Principal, Esperanza Elementary School, Los Angeles Unified School District

Amy Rowat
Assistant Professor, Director of Science and Food, UCLA Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Hilary Seligman
Associate Professor, UC San Francisco School of Medicine

Timikel Sharpe
Deputy Director of Food Services, Los Angeles Unified School District

Rachel Surls
Sustainable Food Systems Advisor, UC Cooperative Extension Los Angeles County

Rodney K. Taylor
Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Fairfax County Public Schools

Bill Yosses
Founder, Director, Kitchen Garden Laboratory

The Global Food Initiative

The Global Food Initiative, a program of the University of California Office of the President, aligns the University’s research, outreach, and operations in a sustained effort to develop, demonstrate and export solutions — throughout California, the United States and the world — for food security, health and sustainability.

GFI was launched in July 2014 to address one of the critical issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025. Since then, more than 20 subcommittees have been working to develop best practices and toolkits to be deployed across UC and shared widely throughout California, the nation, and the world. 

UC President Janet Napolitano, together with UC’s 10 chancellors, launched the UC Global Food Initiative in July 2014. Building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC’s 10 campuses, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative draws on UC’s leadership in the fields of agriculture, medicine, nutrition, climate science, public policy, social science, biological science, humanities, arts and law, among others. Its focus is both external, such as how UC translates research into policy and helps communities eat more sustainably, and internal, such as how UC leverages its collective buying power and dining practices to create desirable policies and outcomes.