SAN YSIDRO — Nearly 4,800 San Ysidro students on March 17 enjoyed freshly grilled “Baja”-style fish tacos topped with crema and avocado salsa and accompanied by kale slaw – a quintessential San Diego meal – dished up with a slight twist: the key ingredients are sourced from California vendors.

The meal marks the start of a partnership with the Berkeley-based Center for Ecoliteracy that will bring healthy, fresh meals prepared with California-grown food to all school sites every Thursday. A network of 58 California school districts participate in the Center’s California Thursdays program; 12 of the 58 districts are in San Diego County and represent 431 schools.

“Our mission is to effectively revolutionize our school cafeteria for our students and support local San Diego businesses,” San Ysidro School District Director of Nutrition Services Pamela Lambert said. “We are also working to raise the level of nutritional awareness within our student body and educate students about where their food comes from and how this food nourishes them and impacts the way they feel.”

Entrepreneurs and philanthropists Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor visited San Ysidro Middle School to commemorate the District’s participation in the California Thursdays program – partially funded by Steyer and Taylor’s TomKat Charitable Trust – and to experience first-hand how the program affects San Ysidro.

“We believe fresh food should be fun and positive,” Steyer said. “ ‘Fun’ means it has to taste good. And it should be as nutritious as possible. If it isn’t good for you and doesn’t provide you with solid fuel that’s going to ensure you have a good day and are able to learn, you’re not going to be able to excel. That’s the positive part.”

The District’s Nutrition Services Department has created several recipes that feature locally sourced food, including a “polla loca” dish that uses chicken from Mary’s Free Range Chicken in the San Joaquin Valley.

“I like this program because the food tastes really good and gives students healthy choices,” San Ysidro Middle School ASB Vice President Miguel Chavarian said.

San Ysidro Middle School’s ASB students and San Diego chef Jeff Rossman of Terra Restaurant developed the recipe for Thursday’s flagship menu. The District obtained Opah fish from Catalina Offshore Products, kale from Encinitas-based Go Green Agriculture and avocadoes from Stehly Farms Organics.

“San Ysidro School District continues to make significant positive changes that support the long-term development of our students, from the cradle to college,” Superintendent Dr. Julio Fonseca said. “The California Thursdays initiative helps us create a solid educational foundation for our students that acknowledges the vital role nutrition plays in supporting their learning.”

The San Ysidro School District’s Child Nutrition Department serves more than 4,800 breakfasts, lunches and snacks a day.


CALIFTHURSDAYS1: ASB students from San Ysidro Middle School collaborated with San Diego chef Jeff Rossman to develop the District’s signature California Thursdays dish: “Baja”-style Opah fish tacos, sourced from local vendor Catalina Offshore Products.

CALIFTHURSDAYS2: Students from San Ysidro Middle School enjoy “Baja”-style Opah fish tacos for lunch. The District has joined the California Thursdays program – a collaboration between the Center for Ecoliteracy and 58 public school districts in California committed to serving one meal a week that uses fresh, California food.