Key Points

In 2007, the Orfalea Foundation launched a nine-year strategic effort aimed at empowering public school districts in California’s Santa Barbara County. The purpose was to implement food-service operations that offered nourishing meals and to create a culture that prioritized the health and wellness of children and families.

The initiative, which involved 84 schools and more than 50,000 students, assessed the capacity of the county’s school food services, including existing skill levels and equipment needs. Striving to tailor programming to specific needs, the foundation emphasized stakeholder involvement throughout the process.

The foundation took a number of steps to understand the value and impact of the initiative, including working with Evaluation Specialists, an outside evaluator. This article shares best practices and lessons learned with organizations interested in learning from and replicating the initiative’s efforts, and with policymakers and school districts interested in improving school food.

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Support for this open access article is provided by Evaluation Specialists.