Sam Kass to Dedicate Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose’s FoodShed Café Developed by KK&P
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22 February 2016
Sam Kass
Sam Kass

Food entrepreneur and former White House chef Sam Kass will help dedicate FoodShed, the newly reimagined café that Karen Karp & Partners developed and implemented for the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. Kass will discuss the influence of food marketing and sustainable agriculture on a global scale, his impressions of the impact of FoodShed, and host an audience Q & A at the museum on Thursday, March 3, 2016, from 2 to 4pm.

Karen Karp, founder and president of Karen Karp & Partners, will join Kass to discuss the project and share key findings from the case study, “Food as Discovery: Cultivating Culinary Experience for Mission Alignment,” written to provide other cultural institutions with a blueprint for change.

Celebrating “Healthy Food for Families – Healthy Bottom Line for Business,” FoodShed is the result of a bold, three-year project that set out to better align the museum’s café with its mission, related exhibits and programs, and demonstrate a profitable bottom line by providing children and adults with the opportunity to make healthy and sustainable food choices.

As the former White House and personal chef to the Obama family, senior policy advisor for nutrition, and executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, Sam Kass brings depth and breadth to the topic of health and food. As a key partner to the First Lady, Chef Kass cultivated the first vegetable garden at the White House since the Roosevelt administration and enacted the first major changes to the school nutrition guidelines in 15 years. Kass knows firsthand about the importance of engaging kids in healthy living.

“I was fascinated to learn about the museum’s transformative café, because they are taking advantage of the direct access they have to parents who are making food decisions,” said Kass. “They are uniquely engaging children and parents at the same time with the same message,” added Kass, who garnered the 2015 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award.

“The FoodShed project was an opportunity to change the café to match the museum’s health vision by functioning like their other exhibits did,” says Karen Karp. “It would be thoughtfully and beautifully designed, fun for kids, a programmable space, and also offer great food for all visitors.”

Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose leads the nation in successfully dispelling the myth that food service at youth attractions can’t make a profit offering healthy, delicious and whole food that is fresh, seasonal, minimally processed, low in added sugars, and free from additives, chemicals and artificial ingredients. At the end of 2015, after six months of operation, FoodShed revenues exceeded projections by 17 percent and were 39 percent greater than the former museum café earned in the previous year.

For the first time in the museum’s history, the museum is sharing in revenues generated from café sales. Customer feedback has been positive, staff have become regulars, and nearby downtown employees are eating there, too.

“We knew we had both the opportunity and the responsibility to take on the important role of healthy eating with children and families,” said Marilee Jennings, executive director of Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. “The challenge was to figure out how to make it work financially for a food service provider and the museum.”

In 2013, the museum hired highly respected New York-based food consultant Karen Karp & Partners to evaluate the museum’s concessions and better integrate the café with its values and its health- and food-related exhibitions and programming while developing a business model that supports sustaining both healthy bodies and healthy business results.

The outcome is a national model for cultural institutions, proving that mission, values, and the bottom line are compatible, and that parents and caregivers are grateful to have healthy foods available and particularly thankful that the only beverage choices for children are water-based drinks and milk.

“The museum no longer views food as a visitor amenity but rather an important educational outcome, said Jennings. “Helping kids understand where fresh produce comes from, what it looks like in its whole form, and how you prepare and eat it, is core to our mission.”

Young visitors at FoodShed watch fresh food being prepared and then select their own fresh vegetables and fruit from the season’s locally sourced produce at the Rainbow Station. The most popular item, the “Bento Box,” further enhances the fun factor, allowing kids to choose items to create their own box. FoodShed is the final piece of a three-pronged approach undertaken by the museum to help children learn to “eat a rainbow every day” in order to develop a healthy body.

Over the past decade, the museum has refocused exhibit and program spaces around this message, developed week-long Move It! festivals for families to encourage physical activity, and now with FoodShed is role-modeling how to incorporate fresh produce into children’s daily lives.