Our Organization

Culinary Action for Education (CAFE), formerly School CAFE, has been growing since its beginning in 2016 when a couple of students and a parent were passionate enough about improving school meals that they took initiative to make change. CAFE has been expanding ever since.

The First Seed

The organization first started in 2016 when parents and students in the Mount Shasta Unified School District asked for better school lunches. They wanted options that included fresh, additive-free, non-gmo, organic (when possible), delicious whole food. The problem was, neither school in the district had a dedicated school kitchen. Instead, they relied on food being delivered from another school kitchen in another city. 

Two students (Maya and Ella) and a Sisson parent (Colleen Shelly) continued to push for better school lunches. Only 40% of the students were eating the food at school, and yet there were no plans to make improvements. They were told they had a choice in this matter: to try and fix the problem. With the ball in her court, Maya, then a 8th grader, wrote a class essay about improving the school with better food. She outlined a fresh, tasty, organic, whole foods solution and was passionate about her desire for better school meals. 

Nurturing Growth

Wayne Kessler, a supporter of this youth-led project, prompted Maya to present her idea to the Board of Trustees of the Mount Shasta Union School District.

At the December 2016 meeting of the Board of Trustees of MSUSD, Maya presented her paper, making a case for improving the taste and nutrition of school food.

They apparently liked what she had to say because this youth-led project inspired the Board to create a Superintendent’s committee designated as the School CAFE (Culinary Action for Education). The committee consisted of students, parents, Board Trustees, the Superintendent, school employees, and you, the community!

Taking Root

School CAFE’s first action, in 2017 was forming a food-centric, after-school club, created and run by Colleen Shelly.  

Students came once a week to prepare and explore food that was nutritious and delicious. Colleen brought her blender for smoothies and slipped in a little nutrition education as well. 

The poster here was created at CAFE Club -- High Fructose Corn Syrup: why you should avoid it.

Donation to Mount Shasta Unified School District

Growing Stronger

School CAFE grew from that point, making a name for itself in the school community by bringing more fresh fruits and veggies into the lives of students. 

After gaining a fiscal sponsor in the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center (MSBEC), School CAFE fell under the umbrella of a 501(c)3 and became eligible for charitable donations.

In 2018, Maya and Ella went door to door in the community (in December!) to raise money to fund the schools that had no kitchens of their own at that time. They raised a whopping $10,000, $8,500 of which was donated directly to the school district to pay for salad bars, a commercial refrigerator, and a prep sink so that students could have fresh salads with lunch.

Since that point, School CAFE continued to help directly purchase healthy food for the local schools, contribute funds to the school garden, and offered community and school grants to support sustainable growing practices and fresh produce.

Read more about the origins of School CAFE in this article by North State Parent.

Branching Out

In February 2024, School CAFE changed its name to Culinary Action for Education (CAFE). We are actively working to foster collaboration between local schools and producers to improve access to locally and sustainably grown fresh produce. We are also helping schools and producers to obtain state-funded grants in support of farm-to-school models and working on improving nutrition education in the schools. 

We can't wait to share what we will be working on next! 

If you would like to support our efforts, reach out to us by email and feel free to donate to support our work. (Thank you!)


If you have a project aligned with our goals and you would like to collaborate, fill out a grant application or contact us to set up a meeting.