Sweet new standards at MDUSD – but with 10 lbs. less sugar

Sweet new standards at MDUSD – but with 10 lbs. less sugar

Sweet new standards at MDUSD – but with 10 lbs. less sugarConcord, CA – At Mt. Diablo Unified School District’s most recent governing board meeting, an intense 2-1/2 year process arrived at its apex—after removing just over 10 pounds of added sugar per student per year, increasing sustainable ingredient sourcing, and improving the quality of ingredients across all regular menus, the district’s nutrition program was ceremoniously awarded the esteemed Eat REAL® Green Certification.

Eat REAL® writes, “This certification was the culmination of an intense 2-1/2 year process involving rigorous and transparent assessment, strategic partnership, planning, and change.

Minimally processed ingredient sourcing was the District’s top priority. This task had been discussed in their initial goal planning and the District had already begun talks with alternate vendors prior to meeting with Eat REAL.

New suppliers

Sweet new standards at MDUSD – but with 10 lbs. less sugar
MDUSD Food Service Director and real food advocate Dominic Machi.

In the summer of 2019, the District found new suppliers and began working one-on-one with individual manufacturers. Through these efforts, they were able to reformulate existing products and find new options to meet Eat REAL’s standards.

Under the leadership of Food Service Director and real food advocate Dominic Machi, MDUSD underwent their initial assessment in the fall of 2018. They submitted menus, recipes and ingredient information for all purchased items to be reviewed and analyzed.

Guided by the data from the report, a change plan was created. This plan acted as a road map towards Eat REAL Certification, prioritizing the District’s goals and identifying specific, tangible actions to improve meal quality and environmental impact.

Over the next year, MDUSD removed over 10 pounds of sugar per student per year, an incredible undertaking for a school food service program. Their new sourcing and vendor contracts allowed them to purchase more sustainable ingredients, eliminating many harmful ingredients from all of their regular menus*.

More plant-based offerings

They increased the number of plant-based offerings, many of which are made from scratch using locally sourced ingredients. After extensive planning, testing, and implementation, the District was officially awarded its certification on Sept. 25. Machi’s passion for real food and food system change drove the District’s certification journey.  His leadership inspired his staff to trust in the process and work together to create long-lasting impact on their student’s health.

“The Mt. Diablo Unified School District has poured a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication into raising the standards for the meals they serve, while always keeping their most important stakeholders – the students- top of mind,” says Jennifer Post, 3rd party RD for Eat REAL Certification assessment.

Pandemic challenges

Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the District has continued to pursue a higher standard, keeping their students’ health at the forefront of their meal program. The MDUSD team continues to raise the bar for school nutrition programs nationwide by prioritizing scratch-made components and quality ingredients.

Eat REAL’s mission is to empower school districts across the nation to make food delicious, nourishing, and responsible through our evidence-based certification program. The certification requires the district to undergo a points-based assessment of their program against Eat REAL’s 10 standards covering different areas of nutrition, sustainability, and overall transparency. To become certified, a district must meet a set of minimum requirements and earn a score of 60% or higher.

*Certification was granted based on pre-COVID-19 meal program menus and commitment to future regular food service planning.

Partnerships and Funding

Mt. Diablo’s journey began as a collaboration with nonprofits Eat REAL and Life Lab, and Sequoia Science Education to build a better model for real food and nutrition education programs in K-12 schools. Working together, the REAL Food in Schools Collaborative set out to support lifelong wellness and achievement for MDUSD’s students by improving meals, introducing classroom nutrition curriculum, and expanding hands-on garden education. Together, the organizations were awarded a grant from Battery Powered to build and pilot the REAL Food in Schools Program. Additional support for MDUSD’s certification was generously provided by the Raley’s Food for Families Foundation.”