For children and their families, a day at Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose, California, includes anything from plucking weeds in garden beds to popping huge soap bubbles in midair.
All that work and play can make kids and their adults ravenous.
But taking time for a snack or meal doesn’t mean the learning stops. The museum’s recently opened café called FoodShed, is an extension of the museum, and a place for children and families to experience healthy eating while learning where fresh food comes from in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The centerpiece of FoodShed is the Rainbow Counter, where children fill up different compartments in a “bento box” with anything from peas and carrots to blueberries and apples. It’s a way to teach children about what it means to “eat a rainbow everyday,” in other words, fruits and vegetables of each color. On the wall is a map of where different produce grows throughout the region.
Children’s Discovery Museum has long been committed to fighting childhood obesity and promoting healthy eating through its museum exhibits, including a year-round garden. In the past, the café functioned more as a snack bar with a lack of local, fresh options. Then in 2013, the museum honored a renowned Bay Area chef and educator, Alice Waters, with the Legacy for Children Award. In accepting it, she challenged the museum to make a bold move by serving families and children healthy, local food.
The next two years were dedicated to finding new partners, planning the menu, and renovating the space. And, it was the museum’s commitment to turn the café into an educational space with a sustainable food service business model. Sure enough, with careful planning, the café has become a revenue stream for the museum; at the end of 2015 it exceeded revenue projections by 17 percent. The museum is putting together a case study to serve as a blueprint for other museums and institutions that might be interested in creating healthy and financially sustainable food service operations.