by Allen Martin and Jennifer Mistrot
SAUSALITO (KPIX 5) — During a recent lunch time meal at Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito, the menu included sloppy joes, fresh fruit and sliced carrots with ranch dressing. Everything on the students’ plates was made from scratch, non-GMO, organic and locally sourced.
“Everything was cut here this morning,” explained Guillaume Pfahl, Willow Creek Academy’s Conscious Kitchen Executive Chef. “We cook and serve each day freshly made, freshly served.”
Pfahl is proud of every dish he creates for Conscious Kitchen, which is part of a larger nonprofit now known as Turning Green that was founded by Judi Shils.
LEARN MORE: Jefferson Awards for Public Service
Back in 2002, as the founder of Search for the Cause, Shils was inspired to lead others on environmental causes when she became aware of the high rates of cancer in Marin. Then she became a mom.
“I was bringing a child into this world,” recalled Shils. “And I wanted this world to be healthy for her and for her peers and her generation.”
Conscious Kitchen now serves over 127,000 meals every year to kids at two schools in Marin County: Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito and Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in Marin City. But for Shils. the meals were only the beginning.
Through Conscious Kitchen, Shils has taken older students on field trips to locations like Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma, where they learn how farms can help fight climate change, reduce water usage and raise animals humanely.
And through Turning Green, Shils and her team have reached nearly 400,000 college students across 50 states and 45 countries through mentorship, social media engagement and youth-driven initiatives.
The goal is to enable and empower young people to start their own environmental causes. Eight graders like Charlee Dorhan see Shils as a role model.
“She really cares about kids, and that they eat well,” said Dorhan. “She’s a kind spirit. And she wants what’s best for everyone.”
Shils, as a mother herself, is heartened to hear such high praise, but she says her deep hope is that her work calls others to action, especially adults in Marin County and beyond.
“The conversation is starting to change because we’re seeing the degradation of everything around us,” said Shils. “[So the question then becomes] how do you bring everybody into that fold?
“How do you encourage the people that are decision makers, the governor, the legislators, the public health officials to understand that it’s their charge, to take care of our future leaders, our future workforce? Because if you shift the way kids are eating, you’re going to shift life outcomes,” said Shils.
So for providing organic meals and environmental sustainability guidance to Bay area children and others, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Judi Shils.