Berkeley team to assess impacts of Oakland Unified’s new lunch system

Berkeley's study of the impacts of school lunch reforms in the Oakland Unified School District could help schools elsewhere better address chronic public health issues for children. (iStock photo)

The UC Berkeley Food Institute is giving a campus team $50,000 to study new reforms in the Oakland Unified School District’s system of feeding its students, in an effort that could help schools across the country.

“Our study will focus on the ongoing issues related both to nutritious food and agro-ecology,” said Malo Hutson, an assistant professor of city and regional planning who is heading up the campus research team with professor Jason Corburn of city and regional planning and public health. “The research will have significant relevance for urban food system change-makers and school communities nationwide as they seek to address chronic public childhood health issues.”

More than 73 percent of Oakland Unified students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The district served more than 28,000 breakfasts and lunches a day during the 2014-2015 school year.

As part of its reform, Oakland Unified is implementing a district-wide network of kitchens, local gardens and produce markets, as well as educational offerings that teach students where their food comes from. 

To conduct its research, the Berkeley team will collaborate with Oakland Unified and the Center for Ecoliteracy. The UC Berkeley team members include Hutson and Corburn, city and regional planning lecturer Moira O’Neil,; and Christyna Serrano, a Ph.D. candidate in education policy at the Graduate School of Education.

Read more about the research here.