Sustainable Schools Make Food Their Top Priority

Sustainable Schools Make Food Their Top Priority

Tue 02 Aug 2011

Story by Sharona Byrnes and April White

Sustainable Palos Verdes Schools set out to create schools that are also model sustainable communities. Up first: FOOD!

Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District (PVPUSD), one of the top academic districts in California, sits on an idyllic peninsula just south of Los Angeles. The population tends toward the wealthy and conservative, and the land that used to be extensively worked by Japanese farmers is now covered with expensive landscaping.

Two years ago, parents got together to discuss their desire to see local schools implement ‘green’ ideas such as recycling, organic foods, and teaching kids about the environment. Led by Tina Quinn, the former President of the Council of PTAs on the hill, and Sharona Byrnes, parent of two elementary school children, Sustainable Palos Verdes Schools (SPVS) was born.

SPVS is working to make our schools into model sustainable communities and educate our kids about the impact of their choices on the world around them. Some of the areas we’re starting with are water and energy consumption, recycling, and food.

Food has become one of the most immediate areas of emphasis, with tangible results. School gardens have been established at two elementary schools with 2-3 more planned for the upcoming school year. A master gardener oversees these gardens, and advises teachers, parent volunteers and students on seed germination, proper planting techniques, care and harvesting. Several fruit trees have been planted at schools, with plans for a 20-80 fruit tree orchard in the coming year. Community Supported Agriculture programs have been implemented in several schools as fundraisers for the PTAs.

Recently, parents met with Teresa Mee, the Food Services Director for the PVPUSD about removing flavored milk from the lunch menus. Teresa is extremely supportive of the parents’ desire to limit the amount of sugar available to their kids during school. Under her direction, the district has agreed to serve only plain white 1% milk Monday through Thursday. Chocolate milk will be offered along with the plain white milk on Fridays in all elementary schools.

“It’s fantastic to work with school officials who are so responsive to parents’ concerns,” commented Korry Taylor, a parent with three elementary school-aged children in Palos Verdes. “I feel like we came to Teresa with a problem, and she really worked with us to find a solution that satisfies our need to cut down on the sugar our kids get, and her need to see they’re getting proper nutrition.”

SPVS is continuing to bring a systems approach to integrating sustainability into the district. Recently, we sponsored our first “Green Tea Break”, where over 30 educators, administrators, parents, and students came together to learn about sustainability and the opportunities it provides for our district’s future.

About the authors:
Sharona Byrnes is mother to two boys who attend the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District & managing director of Sustainable Palos Verdes Schools ( a 501© non-profit), which she co-founded in 2010 with Tina Quinn. She is committed to remaking school food, bringing fresh, tasty, healthy foods to the table, and teaching the students about the importance of food.

April White Gorsuch is a writer and the mom of two young boys. She grows vegetables, raises chickens, and started the CSA (community supported agriculture) program at her son's school. She was one of the driving influences behind the PVPUSD's decision to remove flavored milk from the school lunch menu.


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