Food for Thought (FFT) was organized by a group of concerned parents, educators and growers who first came together in the spring of 2002 to improve the nutritional status and food awareness of children in the Ojai Unified School District (OUSD).
With the help of our committed staff, volunteers and donors, our program has helped to address several important concerns—raising awareness of the importance of good childhood nutritional practices to avoid health-related problems like diabetes, raising awareness among our children and their parents of the integral role of agriculture in our community, and enabling children to reconnect to the land and environment that sustains them.
FFT has developed five inter-related program components with associated curricula that integrate California State Academic Standards. These program components are: 1) nutrition education, 2) garden-based learning, 3) agricultural literacy through farm field trips, and 4) advocating for fresh, local, seasonal produce in all school meals. The fifth and newest component, the “5Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle, rot and rethink!) focuses on minimizing the ecological footprint of the OUSD by minimizing landfill waste, reducing use of toxic chemicals, efforts to conserve energy and water and paper and other resources.
FFT also conducts a number of free community events, including “Films for Thought”, a series of films on sustainable agriculture, food, and environmental concerns. FFT’s comprehensive program was the fourth farm-to-school program to develop in California, was one of the first to be listed as part of Slow Food USA’s “Slow Food in Schools” program and handbook, andhas served as a model for a number of other school districts. There are now hundreds of similarprograms across the United States.
In 2006, FFT became a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The combined skills and expertise of its current board of fourteen directors includes farming, environmental science, education, nutrition, accounting, business, medicine, gardening, and law. To sustain our efforts, FFT relies on foundation grants, fundraising events, and individual contributions in addition to the dedication of our staff and volunteers.
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- Jim Churchill, Co-founder and past Board President
- Cherie Beers MSRD, Board President
- Dr. Helen Petroff, Board Secretary
- Carrie Johnson, Board Treasurer
- Theresa Bulla-Richards, Teacher
- Karen Schmidt, Environmentalist
- Katherine Zackham, Parent
- Mary Maranville, Environmental Educator
- Rich Reid, Photographer, parent
- Lori Hamor, Executive Director
- David White, Garden Coordinator
- Marty Fujita
- Claud Mann
- Larry Yee
- Kevin Ruf
- Cari Guerrero
- Dave Bettles
- Susan Speer
- Timothy Teague
- Betty Vargas
- Rochelle Wilson
- Jim Bailey
- Becky Beckett
- Sage Essick
- Steve Fields
- Gale Leftkowitz
- Kelly Mays
- Gillian McManus
- Jeri Oshima
- Linda Phillips
- Heidi Whitman
- Kim Bastian
- Initial meetings between Mar ty Fujita, Jim Churchill (who helped establish
Healthy School Project for Ventura Unified School District with Pat McCart Malloy)
and Steve Fields (who volunteered as Master Gardener advisor for VUSD)
to discuss starting a farm to school program in Ojai.
- Team meets with OUSD Superintendent Van Riley and receives approval to
start a farm to school program for OUSD.
- Planning begins for launch of a F2S salad bar at pilot school, Topa Topa
elementary, for Fall 2003.
- First steering committee meeting held.
- First grant received from Homeland Foundation to support F2S activities
at Topa Topa school.
- Program name and graphic identity established.
- Organizing meetings begin.
- FFT’s first salad bar launched at Topa Topa to overwhelming response.
- Grant from UC Hansen Trust to support farm field trips and garden component.
- Grant from Crown Family Foundation for general support
- Marty Fujita becomes program coordinator.
- Rollout of FFT program to Meiners Oaks and Miramonte elementary schools.
- Nutrition education program begins.
- Grant received from Annenberg Foundation for general support.
- First fundraising event called “Dinner and a Movie” featuring Tony Shalhoub
held at Ojai Playhouse (sold out!).
- Matilija Junior High School salad bars soft launch.
- FFT salad bar featured at Topa Topa’s Hamburger Hoedown.
- First farm field trips for 4th graders to McGrath Organic Family Farms in Oxnard.
- Steve Fields becomes Co-leader with Marty Fujita.
- Planning for rollout of other components to all remaining OUSD schools.
- Grant received from California Endowment Fund to support nutrition
- Grant received from Marisla Foundation for general support.
- Grant received from Crown Family Foundation for general support.
- Lori Hamor hired as part-time Volunteer Coordinator.
- Grant received from UC Hansen Trust to support garden-based learning
- Edible Communities and Nathan Larremendy Gallery hold fundraiser to
- Trash reduction info sheet handed out to all students on Earth Day.
- Salad bar, garden, nutrition education components running smoothly at all
- 4th grade field trips to Fairview Gardens in Goleta.
- Second fundraising event called “Locally Grown” featuring Jack Johnson,
the Malloy Brothers and Ted Lennon held at Libbey Bowl (sold out!).
- Premiere of Locally Grown DVD, directed and underwritten by Ron Phillips;
produced by Ron Phillips and Marty Fujita.
- First part-time Garden Coordinator hired.
- Manhattan Beach Unified School District garden-based learning curriculum
called, “Growing Great” adopted by FFT; modified slightly for
Ojai growing conditions.
- Sara McCracken hired on as part-time garden coordinator.
- Initiation of garden curriculum for K, 1st and 5th grades.
- New garden beds developed for Miramonte and Meiners Oaks
- Worm bin program rolled out for 2nd graders at all elementary schools as
part of solid waste reduction program component.
- With funding from California Endowment grant, work begins on Hispanic
community outreach nutrition education program.
- Rollout of Nibbles (and Picada), the official, seasonal Food For
Thought program newsletter, distributed to all OUSD parents.
- Soft rollout of five-day-a-week salad bar at Matilija Junior High School.
- Hawaii ‘sister’ program begun in partnership with Kokua Hawaii Foundation.
- FFT Steering Committee decides the organization should become a
stand-alone 501c3 nonprofit in order to more effectively and efficiently
oversee grants and reporting.
- Nutrition education classes begun for Matilija Junior High School students.
- Food For Thought program featured in article on fresh foods in schools
in Mothering magazine.
- Grant received from Crown Family Foundation for general support.
- Grant received from Johnson Family Foundation for general support.
- “Up and down the Wastestream” pilot project initiated at Topa Topa,
Meiners Oaks elementary schools, and Nordhoff High School, with foundation
grant support. The curriculum teaches environmental impacts of our consumption
patterns, and uses student solutions to minimize waste generated by schools.
Deborah Moore from Green Schools Initiative brought in as expert consultant
to assist in project implementation.
- Films for Thought Series launched in May 2007
- Locally Grown 2 fundraising concert held in Libbey Bowl headlining
Perla Batalla, Brett Dennen, the Carrot Chorus and winners of the
Battle of the Bands (Emy Reynolds, Philosophy, and Imaginative Clams).
Battle of Bands CD produced by Wild Ox studio, Ojai.
- First Films for Thought program presented free to community with funding
support from University of California Hansen Trust. The series featured animated
shorts (The Meatrix, Mouth Revolution, Store Wars), King Corn (Q&A with filmmaker
Aaron Wolf), Home Grow’n & Good Stewards (Q&A with filmmaker Dulanie Ellis),
Beyond Organic, Eat at Bill’s (Q&A with filmmaker Lisa Brenneis),
and The Real Dirt on Farmer John (Q & A with farmer John Peterson;
Ojai Playhouse was sold out for two screenings).
- continuation of Wastestream pilot project and evaluation. Students at Topa Topa
and Meiners Oaks conduct school-wide assembly presenting their waste
audit results, lessons learned, and plans for reducing trash at schools.
- Topa Topa and Meiners Oaks garden clubs hold school farmers markets and
sell-out all produce!
- First farm field trips to Ojai local farms including Rio Gozo (sampling chard,
garlic, fennel and carrots) and Churchill Orchard.
- Powerpoint presentation to OUSD Board updating them on FFT programs
and financial support; passage of Green and Healthy Schools Resolution.
- FFT provides support to print and distribute “Recycle Times” newsletter
prepared by Topa Topa 4th graders.
- UC Hansen Trust grant received to fund continuation of farm field trips and
second Films for Thought series.
- OUSD Food Service decides to discontinue once a week, FFT-sponsored
salad bar meal featuring local, seasonal and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Films for Thought 2-November 2008
- Green and Healthy Schools project initiated in partnership with OUSD made
possible by significant funds from anonymous foundation grant to FFTO.
Green Committee established.
- Second Films for Thought series presented with support from UC Hansen
Trust with Q&A with filmmakers. (Garbage, The Story of Stuff, The Garden,
The Man Who Planted Trees, All In This Tea, Scenes
From the Wild Mushroom Trade).
- Films for Thought 3- May 2009
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