To celebrate its 10th anniversary this fall, California-based nonprofit the Food Literacy Center (FLC) opened a green cooking school for students from low-income families in Sacramento.
The school is hosted by Floyd Farms at Leataata Floyd Elementary School and offers students a chance to learn to cook healthy meals. According to FLC’s website, the school resembles pop-up catering: “we bring our food and cooking supplies to school cafeterias, where we set up temporary cooking and nutrition classes for elementary students,” it says.
The kitchen at Floyd Farms will use induction ovens that are powered by solar panels while the grounds include walking paths, farm animals, and produce beds.
“Our students come from food insecure homes, they live in food deserts, and their neighborhoods lack resources like parks and sidewalks,” FLC’s CEO, Amber Stott, told Food Tank in a statement. “They also have parents who work multiple jobs or shifts that don’t accommodate traditional family mealtimes.”
In 2016, the Sacramento School Board voted unanimously for FLC to manage a cooking school and a 2.5-acre student garden on the Leataata campus. The newly-constructed 5,000 sq. ft. building that holds the cooking school will also be used for free family cooking classes and field trips, FLC says on its website.
The group estimates it can reach over 1,000 students per week.
“We know that if we make nutrition education hands-on and make it fun, we can engage students and get them excited about eating their veggies,” Stott says.
Increasing access to nutrition education and culinary skills has never been more important for the Sacramento region. According to The Sacramento Bee, the restaurant industry was hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Over 75,000 restaurant employees—representing 7% of Sacramento’s total workforce—faced some of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
One reason the industry suffered was because of Sacramento’s COVID-19 numbers. For much of the winter, Sacramento remained in California’s purple level, meaning restaurants could not offer indoor dining under any circumstances.
In turn, California Public Radio reports that many business owners second-guessed reopening because of the state’s restrictions.
As a result, restaurants are facing a staffing shortage at a time when the state’s COVID-19 restrictions are slowly being lifted. California Governor Gavin Newsome recently announced the state will lift all restrictions on restaurants by June 15 as long as certain vaccination thresholds are met.
Relief may be on the way for the industry. At the end of March, Sacramento’s unemployment rate stood at 7.2%, with the hospitality picking up 2,500 of the 9,100 total jobs added during the previous month, according to California’s Employment Development Department and as reported by The Bee.
The City of Sacramento is also considering a proposal that would require businesses to rehire many of their laid-off workers if they are still looking for employment. Sacramento city councilwoman Katie Valenzuela lobbied for similar legislation in the California State Assembly, only to have Newsome veto it.
Other entities have stepped in to help restaurants reopen in greater Sacramento County as well. On April 7, the California Restaurant Foundation opened a $1.25-million grant pool for restaurants that employ 50 or more people and can demonstrate at least a 20% decline in revenue because of the pandemic.
For Scott, Floyd Farms represents more than an opportunity to help students and low-income families learn about healthy food, it’s a place for a community to “high five over broccoli.”
“Now that the state of California has allocated dollars and staff behind this, it’s a sign that farm to school is here to stay—and can only continue to improve and expand! It’s an exciting time,” she said.