The Bay Area student-led nonprofit Turning Green is hosting its first virtual benefit on Nov. 7 to raise funds for its programs. Featuring local chefs Alice Waters and Tanya Holland and keynote speaker José Andrés, the proceeds from the “harvest dinner at home” will go towards educating and providing resources for environment-centered youth.
Judi Shils founded the nonprofit with and for her daughter about 16 years ago. While organizing an event to raise awareness around cancer rates in Marin County, Shils noticed the number of high school students in the crowd, and decided to redirect her activism toward younger demographics. Turning Green now has two flagship programs: Conscious Kitchen and Conscious Campus. The former has served marginalized families in Marin County, Santa Venetia and Canal with meals and fresh produce throughout the pandemic.
Shils says Conscious Kitchen set out to prove organic food could be delivered to underserved schools in Marin County within a budget. She later expanded the organization’s reach with a yearlong pilot at a Richmond elementary school. And this week, for the first time, her organization is helping a school district directly source food—1,330 pounds of organic produce will go to the the West Contra Costa County Unified School District each week.
“It’s a huge opportunity to literally shift the supply chain, to expose kids to food that is not riddled with pesticides and that’s healthy for their minds and bodies and also for their families,” Shils says.
On the Conscious Campus side of things, Shils hired 36 interns this summer who worked on a 30-day global initiative called Project Green Challenge, focusing on food, fashion and waste. Participants had 24 hours each day to complete a new challenge for points and prizes. Before the pandemic, Turning Green never had a fall internship, but now that schools are mostly conducting distance learning, there’s been a high demand for programs like this.