Marin’s Dee’s Organic Provides Nutritious School Lunches
When Dolores “Dee” Coleman, a classically trained chef who has been cooking for 25 years, emerged from the pandemic, she and her catering company, Dee’s Organic, were presented with an interesting offer — to make healthy lunches for her son’s school, Marin Primary and Middle School. But that meant that Coleman had to keep on her toes.
“My son eats the lunches almost every day and sometimes he’ll come home and say, ‘Mama that wasn’t really good, don’t do that again,’ ” Coleman says, admitting the feedback can sting a little. “But we talk about it and I have to constantly listen and shift. These are kids and they know what they like to eat.”
Coleman says that schools were sourcing lunches from outside Marin and wanted someone local. Word got around and now Coleman and her 14 employees make some 3,000 lunches a week out of a large kitchen on the College of Marin’s Indian Valley Campus for Marin Primary and Middle School, the Kentfield School District, Bacich and Bridge the Gap, with developing plans to do much more for other Marin schools and districts.
“I believe that every kid should eat and they should eat really good organic, nutritious food,” Coleman says.
As to what the kids like — Coleman says it’s all over the map. “At Marin Primary they said they want chicken tikka masala. ‘We want curry, we want flatbread, we want pizza, we want burgers,’ ” she says. “At Bacich and Kent we went through a bit of a struggle, but they love our pesto pasta, spaghetti, chicken burritos, bean and cheese burritos, and tacos are a hit. And chicken nuggets with french fries.”
Coleman says the food is sourced locally whenever possible and that a lot of the fruit and vegetables served come from the College of Marin garden and one at Marin Primary. She adds that the teachers are happy that the kids are getting good food and an education at the same time. “It’s all about teaching the kids how to eat, how to grow food and how to clean food,” Coleman says. “It is thinking on a broader level; we want to bring that into all schools to help teach children about nutrition.”
In the end, Coleman says, her success really comes down to listening to the kids. “I want to make sure they have a voice in this process because when I was growing up it was ‘this is what it is and you need to eat it,’ ” she says. “That’s why I got into food because it’s like, no, it can shift. I don’t like peas. I’m not going to serve kids peas because most kids don’t like peas.”