Castlemont cafeteria gets healthy(er)

Valentin Mendoza (pictured below, far right) writes about his experience as a youth organizer on the Castlemont high school campus. His team worked to change the lunch menu to include some tasty, healthy food from local vendors. – Katy


Hi, I’m Valentin Mendoza.

I’ve worked with Youth Together since 2006, as a freshmen. I have become a Lead Student Organizer (L.S.O) as an agitator and alliance builder. We’ve been working on our food justice campaign for three years now.

Our work has consisted of doing workshops in classrooms, outreach during lunch, school board meetings and meetings with the district. We collected data, through a petition, to educate our fellow students on the effects of unhealthy food and the positive impact that healthy food can have on our communities and also to get information from them on what they would like to see on the menu.

A big part of the work was also to push the district to support the local economy by partnering with local businesses instead of a big monopoly corporation like SYSCO.

All of this to help us obtain our goal of better and healthier food and bettering our community. Finally, we did! WE WON! And Friday, the 11th of January, marked the grand opening of the new remodeled cafeteria and healthier choices on the menu.

P.S. We, as students and community members, need to continue holding our decision-makers accountable. We still have to push to help our communities, as opposed to corporate America.

photo courtesy of Youth Together

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Paula Larsen Moore


    You are so amazing! I had no idea work like this was being done in Oakland. I’m a parent at Glenview Elementary and I would love to learn more about your program. We’re working on starting a composting and garden program and I personally would love to see some real changes in the cafeteria food.

    If you ever hold a tour of your school cafeteria or give a workshop, can you please post it here? I know a lot of parents and students would be interested in learning more.

    Great work! This is really inspiring!!


  • Isabel Rodriguez-Vega

    I think this is so great! Healthy food is a big problem at schools, yet it is so important. Even at Skyline its hard to find healthy meal options. I’m glad someone is doing something about it. Keep up the good work!

    (I would also be interested in learning more)

  • Doowhopper

    When I used to sub at The Castle I always stressed good nutrition and would approach students and gently try to suggest a more nutritious choice rather than a soda or plate of cheese nachos.
    Most looked at me as if I were crazy. A few listened but I think the kind of peer education being done now is most likely the most effective strategy.

  • Ted Allen

    I hope that you can visit Youth Together at the other high schools and share your experience and knowledge. Good work!

  • Nkauj Iab

    Valentin, you and the Youth Together team at Castlemont High are hella inspiring to the rest of the community. Keep fighting!

    Nkauj Iab

  • josh fisher

    Nice piece Valentin, the whole Castle crew is on point. Thanks for the motivation!

  • Adefela Thomas

    Struggling for justice does work. Keep it movin Valentin!