Milton Uses FISH! to Find the Fun at Work

On October 17, 2018, school nutrition staff at Milton Public School participated in the Finding the Fun at Work with FISH! Workshop to Go, presented by Karen Alarie, MEd, SNS from The John C. Stalker Institute. This workshop focuses on the goal of building a creative, innovative, and fun workplace culture. This goal can be accomplished using the FISH! philosophy to empower staff and create passion and engagement at work.

The FISH! Philosophy

Through this workshop, the staff learns how to apply the FISH! philosophy while working at their school.

  1. Be there– Smile, make eye contact and acknowledge students as they walk through the lunch line.
  2. Play– Allow for curiosity and creativity in the workplace to create an enjoyable work environment free of judgment.
  3. Make Their Day– Value and recognize other employees and their hard work.
  4. Choose Your Attitude: Choose who you will be that day and be conscious of that choice since your choice affects everyone.

    JSI Instructor holds an activity about the FISH philosophy

    JSI Instructor leads FISH! activity

The Finding the Fun at Work with FISH! Workshop to Go incorporates fun and interactive games, which were enjoyed by the Milton school nutrition staff.

You can read about additional experiences with this workshop here. If you would like to schedule a Finding the Fun at Work with FISH! workshop at your school, visit our website to request a JSI Workshop to Go.

NEW! Workshops to Go

Back to Basics: Latin American Cuisine: Build-Your-Own Street Tacos

Back to Basics: Latin American Cuisine: Build-Your-Own Street Tacos

Back to Basics: Latin American Cuisine

Minimum of 7 participants/maximum of 14 participants

Cost: $399 for 3-hour culinary workshop. 

Freshen up your Taco Tuesdays with authentic Latin American cuisine! In this hands-on culinary workshop, you will enhance your culinary skills while preparing student favorites, such as fish tacos, fresh salsa, Spanish rice, and more!

Coming in 2019! Asian Fusion Workshop

 

Get the Right Scoop!

Minimum of 15 participants

Cost: $299 for 2-hour workshop

Scoops, ladles, and spoodles… oh my! Discover why and how to use the correct measuring tools for proper portioning to meet the meal pattern as well as the connection between portion control and cost. Recognize the minimum requirements for each of the five food components with extra practice on vegetable subgroups.

The Power Pack- Mediterranean Style

The Power Pack- Mediterranean Style

Bean-A-Licious

Minimum of 7 participants/maximum of 14 participants

Cost: $299 for 2-hour culinary workshop

Explore the culinary versatility of beans in this hands-on culinary workshop featuring student-approved bean recipes. Prepare a variety of popular bean recipes and build Power-Packs that will meet school meal requirements and your students will love!

To bring a workshop to your school, please visit the John Stalker Institute website to request a Workshop To Go!

Dover-Sherborn Gets the Right Scoop

JSI Instructor demonstrates the proper measuring utensils

JSI Instructor demonstrates the proper measuring utensils.

On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, JSI instructor Christanne Harrison presented the Get the Right Scoop Workshop to Go at Dover-Sherborn High School.

This new workshop allows school nutrition staff to discover why and how to use the correct measuring tools for proper portioning to meet the meal pattern, as well as the connection between portion control and cost.

Interactive activities allow the participants to recognize the minimum requirements for each of the five food components with extra practice given to vegetable subgroups. Some of the Making It Count activities are incorporated into the workshop, making it both fun and educational!

Make the Portion Count game from Making It Count

Make the Portion Count game from Making It Count

Enhance your knowledge of school nutrition at this workshop by:

  • Putting your serving size measurement estimation skills to the test
  • Matching meal portion sizes with the appropriate age groups
  • Participating in conversations with colleagues about the categories and subgroups of vegetables

    Vegetable Subgroups

  • Brainstorming the correct vegetable substitutions for a variety of vegetables
  • Reviewing the difference between the minimum daily and weekly requirements for each of the five food components

If you would like to schedule a Get the Right Scoop workshop at your school, visit our website to request a JSI Workshop to Go.

RCCIs Share, Learn, and Network

Nuts & Bolts of School Nutrition Program Agenda

On October 10, 2018, The Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Continuation Series offered a session for school nutrition professionals in Residential Child Care Institutions (RCCIs) called “Improving Access for RCCI’s in School Meal Programs.” RCCIs provide non-traditional meal service to accommodate children with varied special needs. This session was designed specifically for RCCI professionals to share, learn and network with others in the state. The session started with an assessment of the needs of the group to understand the challenges and successes experienced by RCCI school nutrition directors.  

Participants were divided into small groups and asked to brainstorm and share the challenges and successes they have faced in their programs. The top three successes identified: 1.) students having positive feedback on the food 2.) healthier eating habits, 3.) improved overall health leading to weight loss and decreased obesity among students. The three major challenges included: 1.) staff training and accountability 2.) food waste and 3.) navigation of the DESE website. Once the challenges were identified, participants conversed, networked, listened, and learned about possible solutions and changes they could implement in their program.

Challenge 1: Staff training is not ongoing and management is not always present. Some staff members incorrectly count meals.

Possible Solutions 1: Encourage all staff members to attend a ServSafe training and offer portion control-related online trainings to new staff such as those offered through Making It Count. Ensure all trainers are able to train direct care employees about meal counting, especially on the weekends.

Challenge 2: There is excessive food waste resulting from food being thrown away by students and food service employees.

Challenge 2: Food Waste

Possible Solutions 2: Provide nutrition education to students and staff about meal planning and portion sizes to help reduce food waste. Take a critical look at how food is seasoned or prepared, the appearance of the food, and what food students are throwing out most often. A possible solution to reduce food waste was shared by one of the participants where students assist in serving and cooking meals behind the line. As a result, these students encourage other students to eat the food they make, which results in less food waste.

Challenge 3: The DESE website, specifically the Document and Reference library, is difficult to navigate.

Possible Solutions 3: Add a search option or categorize the webpage to make it easier to find documents in the online library. Make To-Do lists interactive by providing a direct link to references and forms necessary to complete the paperwork on the lists.

Handouts from this session include: School Meals and RCCIs — Making It Fit and Meal Access and Reimbursement. If you are looking to increase your knowledge about implementing and improving USDA National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program operations, consider participating in a Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Continuation Series Program. These sessions are offered online and in person for the 2018 to 2019 school year.

 

What’s Cooking in the JSI Kitchen for 2019?

 

Recipe Testing Veggie Stir-Fry

This colorful and tasty veggie stir-fry is one of the many new recipes we are testing for our new Asian Fusion Culinary Workshop to Go coming in 2019!

In the JSI Kitchen, we are creating Asian Fusion recipes for a new culinary Workshop to Go coming in 2019! Before culinary workshops are offered to Massachusetts schools, recipe testing is conducted in the food lab at FSU. We check to be sure the recipe is accurate, practical, affordable, meets the nutritional requirements and, of course, tastes great!

Purchasing ingredients, prepping, cooking, and tasting new recipes is essential. The qualities and characteristics of each recipe are evaluated for appearance, taste, aroma, texture and overall acceptability. In doing this, recipe changes can be made to spices, herbs, or ingredients in the recipes, which lead to overall recipe improvement and ultimately student-approved recipes.

Stir fry sugar snap peas are prepared on the stove.

Feedback on the recipes is an essential part of the process. The JSI team scores and comments on the appearance, taste, aroma, texture, and acceptability of all the recipes. The favorites in this round of recipe testing included the colorful and tasty vegetable stir fry, crispy tofu, stir fry confetti rice, and the Asian beef strips.

Please visit the John Stalker Institute website to request a culinary workshop. Stay tuned for more information about our new Back to Basics: Asian Fusion Workshop to Go coming in 2019!

JSI Turns 30!

The John C. Stalker Institute (JSI) of Food and Nutrition was established 30 years ago through a partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Framingham State University. JSI proudly continues the legacy of our namesake Mr. John C. Stalker, a highly respected and influential leader both locally and nationally who devoted his life to the betterment of school nutrition. As the premier provider of professional development for school nutrition programs across the Commonwealth, JSI is pleased to continue to serve Massachusetts schools as a steward of innovative and relevant education. Take a visual tour of the history of the Institute with the JSI Timeline.
 
Visit The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition website and take advantage of the vast array of professional development opportunities and resources offered to Massachusetts schools.

Meeting the Special Dietary Needs of Students

On August 2nd a session titled “Meeting the Nutritional Needs of Children with Special Dietary Requests was presented at the summer conference for the Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Programs. Educational Specialists for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education discussed solutions to common questions about serving students with special dietary needs. Featured discussion points included the documentation of dietary requests, qualifying dietary conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements for meal modifications and food substitutions.

One of the first points of the presentation that initiated discussion among audience members involved whether or not medical documentation is necessary for dietary requests. Multiple scenarios were discussed to clarify when medical documentation is and is not required. The relationship between medical documentation and IEPs, as well as meal modifications and the importance of adhering to meal requirements was also included. Please visit the JSI website for more information about the conference and to view the presentation files for the Nuts & Bolts of School Nutrition Programs Conference including the Special Dietary Needs presentation handout.

To create a successful meal accommodation based upon special dietary requests, it is important to keep three main points in mind:
1.) The need for medical documentation varies based on the situation, 2.) There are different types of meal accommodations from food allergies to texture modifications, and 3.) If applicable, ensure modified meal items meet any and all necessary nutrition standards. Be sure to refer to this excellent guide from USDA-FNS: Accommodating Children with Disabilities in the School Meal Programs, Guidance for School Food Service Professionals.

For additional resources about the special dietary needs of children at school please visit the JSI Resource Center: Special Dietary Needs and Making It Count. Additional training opportunities from JSI include Food Allergies and Gluten-Free at School Workshops to Go, Food Allergies On Demand training. The Managing Life-Threatening Allergies in Schools manual is also conveniently available online for reference.

 

Team Up for School Breakfast

On May 31st the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit featured a session titled “Team Up: Breaking Breakfast Barriers.” Similar to other Team Up sessions sponsored by Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and hosted by The John C. Stalker Institute, this mini-session focused on barriers and solutions from school nutrition professionals to promote the School Breakfast Program.

During this session, school nutrition professionals shared their experiences of how they increased the success of their school breakfast programs. The panel of speakers included: Food Service Director, Kristen Gentili, RD, LDN, from Natick Public Schools, West Bridgewater Public Schools’ Food Service Director, Ann Marie Grinder, Mashpee Public Schools’ Nutrition Coordinator,Gus Stickley Needham Public Schools’ Nutrition Outreach Coordinator, Jen Tuttelman, RD, and the Director of Food Service at Greenfield Public Schools, Madison Walker. Nutrition Education and School Wellness Training Coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Denise Courtney, MS, RD, was the facilitator of this panel session.

As panelists discussed their experiences with increasing participation in school breakfast programs, the barriers they encountered and their approaches to break down these barriers were overall similar.

Challenge: Students may be unwilling to go the cafeteria for breakfast.

  • According to panelists Kristen Gentile and Ann Marie Grinder, breakfast was offered in the cafeteria at their schools, but students did not take advantage of the breakfast service. They found that students congregated in the school hallways in the morning or those waiting in the cafeteria did not get out of their seats to buy breakfast.

Solution: Provide a food cart or snack rack placed near the cafeteria for students take breakfast to go.

  • The Natick High School has the breakfast cart open until late morning (10:00am) to give students an opportunity to purchase food in between classes.
  • Breakfast cart used at Natick Public Schools. Photo credit to Kristen Gentili.

    Any school districts that wish to have breakfast carts that are used for school breakfast programs, such as those in Natick, can apply for a grant through New England Dairy and Food Council. The carts allow both cold and warm items to be served and can be placed at convenient locations in the school or school cafeteria.

  • The Nutrition Coordinator of the Mashpee Public Schools Gus Stickley, shared with the attendees that they created a bagged, grab-and-go breakfast program that consisted of mostly pre-made items such as cereal, milk, and fruit. Students take these breakfasts to go as they enter the school in the morning.

    A sample Grab-and-Go breakfast from Mashpee Public Schools. Photo provided by Gus Stickley.

Challenge: Schools may not allow food in the classroom. This creates issues with students having the time to buy food and eat it before class begins.

Solution: Allow breakfast in the classroom.

  • It was found among panel members that there is a higher participation rate in breakfast programs in schools that allow food in the classroom. In these cases, students are able to purchase the breakfast (or get free or reduced breakfast) and eat it in the classroom.
  • Madison Walker shared with the audience that in the Greenfield school district, over 60 percent of students qualify for free or reduced breakfast, and it is encouraged that students eat in the classroom. In doing this, it was found that there was a reduced stigma around getting free or reduced breakfast, since all students are eating in the classroom.

The take away message from the panel about increasing the success of school breakfast programs… bring breakfast to the students and when possible, have students eat breakfast in the classroom.

Please visit the Healthy Kids, Healthy Summit web page at JSI to view this and all presentations. For additional resources, check out the School Breakfast web page of the JSI Resource Center.

 

Framingham Public Schools Turns an Empty Plot of Land into a Garden of Possibilities

Framingham High School overhauled an empty lot of grass on-campus and turned it into a 1.5-acre garden called The Flyer Farms. Started in 2009, this garden not only grows supplemental vegetables for the school to serve but offers employment opportunities for high school students, marketing potential for the school nutrition program and serves as a space to educate students about agriculture and nutrition.

Chef Brendan Ryan, Food Department Administrator, spearheaded the vision for the outdoor garden. He saw this empty space between buildings at Framingham High School and saw the opportunity to grow fresh produce. Brendan said that Director of Foodservice Operations Raquel Vazquez, a graduate of Framingham State University’s Nutrition Program, “…was pivotal in the inception and installation of the garden.”

Brendan Ryan and Director of Foodservice Operations Raquel Vazquez in front of The Flyer Farms.

To get the garden up and running each year, the school hosts a Garden Day which takes place on a Saturday at the end of April. This event includes National Honor Society students, teachers and families who help the food service department get the garden ready for the season. Students can earn community service hours that day and the event gets the whole community involved in the school gardens. Raquel said, “We want to make the gardens as student-oriented as possible.” The team also hires students for the summer months to help mow, weed and harvest the gardens. These roles provide employment opportunities for students and help the food service department maintain the gardens during the summer months.

For a quicker return on investment, the team buys 90-day crops so they don’t have to harvest in the middle of summer. They also strategically plan what’s in each garden bed to maximize the amount of food they can grow. Brendan works with a local vendor to buy young seedlings versus larger potted plants to save on costs.

The team grows a wide range of vegetables including tomatoes, corn, peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, butternut squash, carrots, lettuce, pickling cucumbers and herbs. To liven up the space, they also grow towering sunflowers (that reach the second floor of the building) and a variety of other flowers for decorative purposes.

The 1.5-acre Flyer Farms at Framingham High School

The lettuce usage in Framingham Public Schools is very high, averaging about 12 pounds per meal period. Although the outdoor gardens do grow a large quantity of vegetables, of course, this is not enough to cover the schools’ food service needs. Raquel and Brendan emphasized that the produce supplements these needs and on top of that, it allows students to learn how food is grown.

For phase 2 of the outdoor garden, the team also wants to grow herbs and flowers around an outdoor café. This will create an additional green space for students to spend time outside. Long-term, Brendan and Raquel want to expand their initiatives with a potential branded hydroponic growing lab. This lab would be operated and run by students in the Biology department and would help grow food for the school year-round.

Raquel’s advice to other school nutrition teams that are looking to start an outdoor garden is to do your research upfront before getting started. She said first, “Look-up your local regulations first, know what’s allowed, what you can or cannot grow. Test your soil, realistically space out your beds and ensure there is room to walk in between them and reach plants. Understand the potential barriers like pests or animals that would require you to add fencing around the gardens.”

Brussel Sprouts plants grown on The Flyer Farms.

In terms of community support, Raquel said, “A lot of the parents of students are super appreciative of what we’re doing.” Brendan shared that students now also just enjoy spending time in this space. He said that the Photography club comes down to practice taking photos, the drama club holds rehearsals there and students like to hang out and socialize by the gardens.

 

Waltham Public Schools Adds Indoor Gardens to Grow Food and Minds

Food Service Director April Liles and Nutrition Coordinator Haylee Dussault turned an Organic Grow Rack into a garden of opportunity for Waltham Public Schools. April spotted EvanLEE ORGANICS’ Grow Racks at the School Nutrition Association conference in October and immediately saw the potential of growing food indoors to engage students and increase nutrition education throughout her district.

Food Service Director April Liles and Nutrition Coordinator Haylee Dussault who spearheaded the addition of Organic Grow Racks to several Waltham Public Schools.

With the dedication and commitment of April and Haylee, five Waltham Public Schools now have these portable indoor gardens. The schools grow plants like herbs, kale, various lettuce varieties and spinach. They are always experimenting with new vegetable plants like the recent addition of radishes to the Waltham High School garden.

The Grow Racks are 4’ wide, 2’ deep and come on wheels. The Racks do not require any outside light because they are powered by timed LED lightbulbs. This functionality allows schools to have flexibility in where they place the Grow Racks and does not require them to rely on the unpredictable New England seasons and weather conditions.

To get started, April and Haylee experimented with one rack at Waltham High School to fine-tune the process. Once they found a successful method, they put together a detailed manual for the other schools to use and in turn, be successful with their indoor gardening. After receiving buy-in from the schools and purchasing the racks, each school selected a “school champion” to spearhead their school’s Grow Rack. April also ran a planning and “set-up” meeting so all schools knew how to integrate these Racks into their schools.

The EvanLEE ORGANICS “Grow Rack” at Waltham High School in Waltham, MA.

April emphasized the importance of starting slowly when beginning a school garden initiative and more importantly she said, “every school needs a champion to make this all a success.”

One of the many benefits of the grow racks is they are very low maintenance for schools. They just require periodic watering and then the actual harvesting of the produce. The school champion may also need to adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow. There is an initial investment in the structure and the soil but after that April reinforced that, “…you can keep reusing the soil for new plants. You just have to buy the seeds to keep planting. Other than that you just have to water them and the lights are on a timer so schools don’t even have to worry about that.”

April said that these racks, “… provide produce for our menus, connect kids to what we are growing and with the cafeteria. It’s a small investment with a huge reward for nutrition education.”

To promote these Grow Racks to students and to make the produce exciting, Haylee prepares samples for students in the lunchroom. The schools also use these vegetables on the lunch menu with signs that say things like, “Try some lettuce from your very own grow rack.”

Produce grown on the Organic Grow Racks are sampled to students to connect them to the school’s gardening efforts.

Long-term, April shared that she has a vision for phase three of these efforts. The first phase was buy-in and the second phase was to get everyone planting and using the Grow Racks. For the third phase, she would like to incorporate the Grow Racks in ongoing school curriculum and provide more educational material and resources for teachers to be able to do just that. She also sees a huge opportunity to use the school’s harvest in fundraising efforts like selling fresh grown herbs to the school community.

If you’re interested in starting or expanding your school garden, whether it be a Grow Rack or another vehicle for growing fresh produce, Framingham State University offers a 4-week online graduate course called “Growing Your School Garden.” Sign-up today and enjoy the convenience of online learning and help prepare for the school year ahead.

For additional resources on school gardening and “going green,” visit the JSI Resource Center.