Reimagining School Lunch

The ‘Reimagining School Lunch' (RSL) series is an opportunity for us to take a step back and really look at the current school lunch system. Working together, building allies and utilizing an innovative process we can collaborate on a shared vision of making a difference in the school lunch system in our valley.  With the assistance of workshop participants engaged in the process and by creating a space of listening, connecting, and understanding, new ideas and insights can emerge.  Much amazing work has been done to get local food in our schools, and there is still so much potential for re-thinking how we feed our kids.


The Reimagining School Lunch Innovation Lab is a 4-part series.  The first piece was held Saturday November 2, 2019 at the Bitterroot River Inn in Hamilton, Montana.  Part One helped us discover how our current system works.  It included getting to know about the silos each of the stakeholders in the current system works within, as well as learning how to use sensing tools to discover more over the winter leading up to our next gathering. The second part will be April 17-18 at Sleeping Child Hot Springs. We will gather the learning that was done over the winter, cluster around idea areas, and begin to prototype new ideas.  Parts three and four, later in the year, will look at the lessons learned and opportunities arising from the prototypes.  


The end goal is to reimagine how to have all Montana grown foods served for school lunches in the Bitterroot Valley, and then across Montana. The facilitation of the events uses tools from Theory-U, a social theory process that is part of the Presencing Institute ( developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  Modeled after the successful initiative to transform the food system of Brazil, see more information below, and formed out of an 4-part inquiry facilitated in early 2019 called Building A Stronger Bitterroot, this process is a way to look at challenges in our community and engage in societal innovation.

This Lab process is funded from a grant to the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority from the MT Dept. of Agriculture, designating them as a Food and Ag Resource Center and supporting this project.  MT Department of Ag will receive the information learned from the events and the prototypes as deliverables for the grant.  Laura Garber, Director of Cultivating Connections & Kris Byer are leading the design and facilitation of this event series, with the assistance of a volunteer planning committee, and with coaching from the Presencing Institute.  

Some History to the Project

Global models and coaching resources


We've had the honor of working with Marian Goodman of the Presencing Institute. Marian participated with a Lab process in Brazil from 2015-2017 using the models from Theory U to look at their food system and ultimately transforming & making lasting change across the country. With Marian's permission we share the October 2, 2019 recorded zoom video call where she talks about the history and impacts of their project in Brazil. Approximately 40 min. in length.

Marion's Power Point of the Sensing Journey process click here to download PDF file (10.6 MB)

Building a Stronger Bitterroot

A community roundtable series, using the Theory U framework, was held in early 2019 in Hamilton, Montana. Local community members came together to discuss the valley and how to create a more resilient economy. The Reimagining School Lunch series derived from this initial exploration.

You can read more about this previous event from this March 19, 2019 article in the local paper:

Previous Events

Note: **Date Change**

RSL Part 2 will now be held April 17 & 18, 2020 at Sleeping Child Hot Springs.

The Process & Resources:

Part One // November 2, 2019

Discover & Sensing

Looking at how the current school lunch system works. Discovering who are the allies and stakeholders in the current system. Learning tools to explore the system.

Part Two // April 17 & 18, 2020

Gather & Prototype

Held at Sleeping Child Hot Springs over two days of retreat (not an overnight event), Part Two will gather the learning done over the winter, cluster around the idea areas and begin to  formulate prototypes. To participate in Part Two you must have attended Part One + complete one of the homework items. If you were unable to attend Part One then we ask you to complete two homework items in order to attend. Our volunteer committee can review the packet & process with you.

Part Three // TBA July 2020

Learning & Prototyping

Looking at the information gathered from earlier in the year, Part Three with continue the Learning and start to Prototype.

Part Four // TBA November 2020

Learning & Prototyping continued

Continuing the process of listening, gathering information and prototyping.

Stakeholder Interview Updates:
RSVP to Part Two:
RSL Part Two
Friday 4/17 & Saturday 4/18
Sleeping Child Hot Springs
Reimagining School Lunch Part Two retreat at Sleeping Child Hot Springs

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Find us: 

175 Skalkaho Hwy, Hamilton, MT 59840