The Los Angeles Unified School District faces several challenges. There are 700,000 students, a sprawling distance between schools, and a $500 million deficit.
To begin to revitalize the program, Executive Chef Mark Baida was hired from USC “to put a strong culinary face on the department,” said LAUSD’s Deputy Foodservice Director David Binkle.
In the last year, LAUSD’s cafeterias have been rebranded, major renovations are underway in more than 100 schools, menus have been re-engineered and production processes have been standardized.
Focus groups consisting of students, stakeholders and community members were formed, with a special emphasis on a student-driven menu. Staff was scrutinized and changes made. Recipes are now carefully documented, and a “Chef’s Signature Series” was introduced to energize student interest in the food program.
“We’ve had a real sense of urgency,” said Binkle. “We need a healthy, vibrant environment that’s working towards the future. Ninety percent of heart bypass patients fall back into their old habits. That’s not going to happen here.”