June 11, 2019

Kellogg Fellow Launches Nation’s First Racial Equity-Oriented Financial Institution

Rende Progress Capital Targets Racial Wealth Gap with Loans to Entrepreneurs of Color

June 7, 2019

Southern African Kellogg Fellows Team Up to Address Challenges

KFLA Network Supports Children, Families and Communities

May 31, 2019

Latin American Kellogg Fellows Collaborate Closely for Common Good

KFLA Global Summit Sparks Many New Partnerships

April 23, 2019

Three Sisters Kitchen Nourishes Albuquerque’s Communities

Kellogg Fellow Sees Healthy Food Access as Basic Right

March 26, 2019

N.C. Congresswoman Alma Adams on Hunger and Closing the Gap

The Kellogg fellow is in her third term representing North Carolina 12th Congressional District

March 11, 2019

Kellogg Fellows Examining Equity through Food

How can issues of societal and racial equity be better understood through the lens of food?

Arrow
Arrow
1
2
3
4
5
6
Slider

I never cooked for kids, as the chef of a white table-cloth restaurant. One of my worst fears was when a waiter or host walked in to the kitchen at 8:00 PM on a Saturday to tell me that they just sat a six top with four hungry screaming children.

I never cooked for kids, as the chef of a white table-cloth restaurant. One of my worst fears was when a waiter or host walked in to the kitchen at 8:00 PM on a Saturday to tell me that they just sat a six top with four hungry screaming children. My circuitous route from celebrated chef to renegade lunch lady landed me as the Director of Berkeley Unified School District just over a year ago—and I’ll never forget the food I saw being served on my first day of school.  Let me rephrase that—I’ll never forget the “stuff” that was being served—food it was not. In all my decades as a cook and chef, I had never seen stuff like this.  Rice frozen in a bag served with frozen vegetables, frozen fried fake chicken parts and some gloppy sauce with fried noodle things on top—the item was called Asian Orange Chicken.  Other items that were served included frozen “grilled” cheese sandwiches, frozen corn dogs, frozen pizza pockets and of course the ubiquitous frozen burritos with a laundry list of ingredients a mile long. The worst thing was that the food came frozen in plastic bags, was put in the ovens to be heated in those bags, kept warm in those bags and served to the children in those bags.  You might wonder where the chemicals in the plastic go after all that time and temperature change—it goes into our children. Now, a year after starting my work in Berkeley, what we serve the children has dramatically changed.  We serve fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal.  We have salad bars in all of our schools.  And all that frozen pre-packed stuff is gone—banished from our children’s plates.  After just a year, all of our food is fresh and made from scratch—we cook for the children every day. Yesterday, when I was at one of the elementary schools, I watched the third and fourth graders eating fresh made salads from the salad bar.  I was delighted as they ate the enchiladas made by a small local company and as they ate the Three Sister’s Stew, which they also cooked in their cooking classes.  After lunch I went to the garden where the students made me a “weedo”—garden burrito of herbs and flowers wrapped in sorrel leaves.  I realized that I’m doing the most important work of my life—changing these children’s relationship to food by helping them understand the symbiotic relationship between food and dirt—between their health and the health of the planet. This is important to me because corporate America has placed profit over the health of our children.  It ought to be a birthright in our country that every child, every day has delicious and healthy food in school.  There is nothing more vital to all of us and our future than the health of our children. In the end—if I’m successful—perhaps, just perhaps, this will be a model that can be utilized nationwide.  Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll save all of our children and the planet as well.

Written in 2006   

This essay and portrait is part of a community-art and leadership project called “wdydwyd?” Tony Deifell (KNLP-16) invited his colleagues in the Kellogg Fellowship to reflect on what motivates them to follow their personal and professional paths by answering the question, “Why do you do what you do?”


“wdydwyd?” has reached over 1.5 million people worldwide and it has been used for team-building at Google, Twitter, many colleges and universities, nonprofits and K-12 classrooms. And, according to Wired Magazine, “In Silicon Valley, that question has been the hottest team-building meme since Outward Bound – and it’s spreading.” For more information: http://wdydwyd.com/leadership.


Did you like this article? Share it with your friends!