Berkeley High School has partnered with Ann Cooper, Berkeley Unified School District director of nutrition services, to provide a free breakfast for all its students. Breakfast is served in the morning, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
“We have a school menu,” says Cooper. “We take into consideration the quality of the food, the nutritional content, the affordability—and most importantly, we want the food to taste delicious to the kids.”
Using all of these components, Cooper and her staff produced a breakfast menu that rotates every few weeks. The menu includes things such as hot/cold cereal and yogurt, muffins, scrambled eggs, frittatas, turkey bacon, etc. Additionally, the majority of the food is organically grown and some is even purchased at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market.
Cooper reports that many kids have been taking advantage of the program. She estimates that the number of kids eating breakfast is between one hundred and one hundred and twenty-five each morning. The program is funded by the reimbursements that the school receives from the state for free or reduced-price lunch programs.
“I really like the breakfast program,” said junior Keenan Nelson-Barer. “I don’t always have time in the morning to get a good breakfast, so it’s helpful to be able to get it at school for free before I go to class.”
When asked what his favorite food item was, Nelson-Barer responded, “The scrambled eggs are really good.”
BHS Principal Jim Slemp reported that he enjoyed the food as well, especially the oatmeal. District Public Information Officer Mark Coplan agreed with Slemp on the program. “It’s really great,” remarked Coplan.
Cooper was hired by the district last year to help reform the food services in all of the Berkeley schools. The School Lunch Initiative, a group independent from the BUSD started by restaurateur Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, pays for her salary.
When we asked Cooper what she would say to a BHS student to convince them to eat the breakfast, she responded, “It tastes good and you’ll feel better, think better, and learn better in class. It’s a win-win situation.”
As for the lunch program, there is a variety of options in the food court. There is an American/Italian/Asian food bar, an organic salad bar, a wraps station (sushi, egg rolls, etc.), and a gourmet pizza bar. Starting March 1, BHS plans to open the court to outsider food, to serve items like Chicken Wings, Sloppy Joes and others.
Students have been giving the cafeteria food mixed reviews. Some students found it “really good” and “better than it used to be,” while others found it “too healthy” or “pricey”. Breakfast is free, while lunch is $4 for students not receiving free or reduced lunch.
“We’re working really hard on the food at Berkeley High,” Cooper said. “I’m really trying to get the kids to eat it.”