Food Justice, Food Access & Food Equity: How One Local Nonprofit is Tackling All Three
Conscious Kitchen started at Sausalito’s Bayside MLK Elementary School in 2013 as a way to “bring fresh, local, organic food to children in schools, primarily in underserved communities right here where we live and work — to support their minds and bodies, health and wellness, people and planet,” say the mother-daughter team and co-founders Judi Shils and Erin Schrode. At the onset of Covid-19 the company started offering buy-one-give-one CSA boxes with the donated food benefiting families in Marin City, but the love has reverberated throughout our community.
Why are the families in Marin City so important to you?
Marin City is a historically underserved, very vibrant community in Marin — and we brought in the students at Bayside MLK for our Eco Top Chef program, and just felt the inspiration to bring better food into the lives through school dining. With pockets of deep need amid such affluence, we feel compelled to rise in service and solidarity — and the way we can do that is through organic food, which is caring for people, soil and the planet all at once.
How have you seen your CSA boxes change people’s outlook on food?
Community members enjoy the bounty that comes from our local, organic farm partners. People have realized that due to Covid, we’re not able to support our food system in the way we had pre-Covid. The buy one-give-one” Conscious Kitchen Farm Box program has done three beautiful things — bring fresh, local, organic, seasonal food to the homes of people who purchase boxes, provide direct regular income to farmers who have lost much of their business, and supplement nutrition alongside our hot meals for people in our community in a time of need, which makes everyone feel good.
Are the CSA boxes an on-going endeavor or was this Covid specific?
We launched the CK Farm Boxes as a Covid-specific endeavor, but have loved inviting local people to support our farmers, creating opportunities to donate fresh food to those in need, and getting fresh local organic produce into homes. It is encouraging and inspiring greater support of organic agriculture where we live — while supporting planet, air, healthy systems and natural resources to ensure our collective health and wellness.
How is Conscious Kitchen making a difference in local schools?
Conscious Kitchen is about food justice, food access, food equity — shifting the paradigm by bringing fresh, hot, organic, nutritious, well-balanced, chef-prepared, beautifully-served meals to children. The meals (and, in non-Covid times, chef team who make them) teach children about food and its contribution to the health and wellness of people and planet while supporting our next generations and future leaders.
Why is working with kids important?
Kids are our future. What young minds learn now, they take forward. Our world has to look very different for all of us to not only survive, but to thrive. If we help the next generation to understand what needs to change and offer up tangible solutions, we believe that they will lead us in a far better, more just, healthy, equitable direction.
Who are some of the local farms you work with?
Tomatero Farm, Earl’s Organics, Marin Sun Farms, Mindful Meats, Mary’s Organic Chicken, Marin Cheese Company, Nicasio Valley Cheese, Tomales Farmstead Creamery as well as more local organic farmers and purveyors.
Are you working on new and noteworthy projects or events?
We’re working on the Conscious Kitchen Eatery — a vision for a place where we can cook food for children in schools, as well as other members of our community who will purchase and pickup meals, allowing us to fill the need around hunger in our community by using revenue to prepare and donate those same meals to vulnerable populations. We can also highlight artisanal food makers, organic farmers and local food purveyors.
Want to get involved? Sign up for your CSA box and learn more at consciouskitchen.org.