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Greening School Food: A Northeast Forum on Climate-Friendly School Food

  • University at Albany Campus Center (map)

Friends of the Earth and Tisch Food Center at Teachers College Columbia University are excited to invite you to a Greening School Food Forum specifically designed for the Northeast.

This is the third in a series of regional forums being held around the country to provide education and inspiration, highlight district-level efforts towards serving more plant-forward menus, and cultivate new relationships and leadership among school foodservice professionals and stakeholders.

WHAT: Let’s talk about school food that’s healthy AND climate-friendly.

Leading foodservice directors from Northeastern school districts will share successful strategies for making shifts toward climate-friendly, plant-forward menus and waste reduction in their cafeterias. National and regional nonprofits will discuss resources and map out strategies and policy reforms that are needed for scaling up climate-friendly school food. Forum participants will share their experiences, gain valuable information and cultivate new relationships in several roundtable discussions. This forum will build on existing local and regional efforts to provide students with innovative nutrition education and make school meals healthier, local and more sustainable.

WHY: With more than $16 billion in taxpayer funds invested and seven billion meals served annually by K-12 schools, shifting menus toward more plant-forward options and increasing sourcing from local, organic farms is a powerful lever for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other harmful impacts of industrial food, while generating major health benefits and leading towards a generational shift in food awareness and consumption habits.

WHO: Key stakeholders in K-12 foodservice: Foodservice directors, nutrition services directors and staff, foodservice operators, sustainability coordinators, parents, students, policy makers and non-profits working on healthy and sustainable food solutions. (CE credit will be offered for attendance. Details to come.)

HOW: Please contact Jen Dalton if you need a discount on the registration fee in order to attend or if you need to pay by Purchase Order:

SPEAKERS & AGENDA: Note, we are adding excellent speakers regularly. This is a partial list.

8:15 to 9:00: Registration, coffee and mingling

9:00 to 10:15: Introduction & Opening Remarks
Why healthy, climate-friendly foodservice? – Kari Hamerschlag, Friends of the Earth
The health benefits of plant-forward meals – Speaker TBD

Mini-Keynote: The intersection of child nutrition and food justice – Pam Koch, Tisch Food Center, Teachers College Columbia University

10:15 - 12:15: Climate-Friendly School Food Case Studies 
Introduction & Moderation – Jen Dalton, Kitchen Table Consulting & Friends of the Earth

Beth Krause, R.D. – Director of Child Nutrition, Ithaca City School District

Mellissa Honeywood, R.D. –Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Cambridge Public Schools

Laura Benavidez – Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Boston Public Schools (invited)

Stephen O’Brien — Director of Strategic Partnerships, New York City Department of Education Office of School Food (invited)

12:15 – 1:15: Plant-Based Lunch and Keynote with Yadira Garcia

1:15 - 2:45: First Steps, Next Steps: Resources for Change
Introduction & Moderation – Jen Dalton

Meatless Mondays – TBD
Food Forward – Stefanie Heath
Chef Ann Foundation – Emily Gallivan

Tisch Food Center, Teachers College Columbia University – Claire Raffel
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine – Maggie Neola

Coalition for Healthy School Food – Amie Hamlin

2:45 - 4:30: Breakout Discussions
Participants get an opportunity to dive into topic areas more deeply and connect with resource experts in 3-rounds of facilitated table talks.
Facilitated by Jen Dalton

4:30 - 5:00: Share Out & Closing
Facilitated by Jen Dalton

THANKS to OUR CO-SPONSORS: Chef Ann Foundation, Coalition for Healthy School Food, Forward Food, Meatless Mondays, One Meal a Day for the Planet, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, VegFund


The first two forums were held in the Northwest (2017) and Southern California (2018) and attracted over 100 people each within 200-miles of each location for a deep dive into the most successful strategies for implementing healthy, climate-friendly school food. You can view presentations and see videos from the Southern California Greening School Food Forum here.

These forums are a part of a growing trend to put more plant-forward food on school menus across the country. Friends of the Earth recently released a report entitled “Scaling-Up Climate-Friendly School Food: Strategies for Success” that spotlights this growing movement of pioneering school districts using their massive purchasing power to provide plant-forward, climate-friendly food that is healthier for students and the planet, and cost-effective. The report, which is based on interviews with over 30 districts, shows how just one recipe shift can make a huge impact. For example, Lee County Public Schools in Florida reduced its carbon emissions footprint by 2.3 million pounds simply by replacing a pasta beef dish with a soy-based tomato sauce recipe just eight times a year. Over a two-year period, this one recipe swap had the same environmental impact as not burning 1.2 million pounds of coal or 120,000 gallons of gas!

Friends of the Earth also conducted research with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), published in a groundbreaking report “Shrinking the Carbon and Water Footprint of School Food: A Recipe for Combatting Climate Change.” This pilot showed that over a two-year period, OUSD reshaped it’s menu with fewer animal foods and more protein-rich legumes and vegetables resulting in saving over 42 million gallons of water, a 14% reduction in the carbon footprint of its purchases, and a cost-savings of $42,000.