“Live-Setting” Culinary Training at Milton High School

On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, JSI Chef Brendan Gallagher led Milton High School’s nutrition staff in a “Live-Setting” Culinary Training. Milton High School was a pilot school for this concept and is the first school to receive a training of this kind from JSI. “Live-Setting” is a training approach created by Chef Kent Getzin in which foodservice teams train in their live working environment during regular production. This approach allows your nutrition program to still produce meals for the day while simultaneously learning skills they can use everyday.

Chef Brendan worked with the staff to prepare a customizable Vietnamese noodle dish called pho and it was a huge hit! The pho contained homemade broth, lo mein noodles, and chicken or pork. Students could further customize their bowls by adding shredded carrots, bok choy, bean sprouts, Thai basil, mint, lime, hoisen sauce, siracha, soy sauce, or fish sauce. All 186 servings were sold over 3 lunches and the students loved it! One student reported, “it was really good and I think they should make it more often.”

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Milton Public Schools’ School Nutrition Director Jackie Morgan was excited about the “Live-Setting” training! She explained that in the past some of her staff have taken JSI’s Knife Skills workshop to go and not everyone was able to attend but “the “Live-Setting” training gives all employees access to skills.” Some of the skills the staff learned during this pilot training include knife skills, how to make a homemade broth including charring onions over an open flame, washing produce after chopping and using a salad spinner to dry it, and seasoning and roasting chicken and pork.

Stay tuned for more information and opportunities to bring a JSI “Live-Setting” Culinary Training to your school in the 2017-2018 school year!

Smarter Lunchrooms in Massachusetts 2016-2017

School nutrition professionals recognized at the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit.

On Wednesday, May 24th The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition held the second day of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit. In the morning a Recognition Ceremony was held to recognize the schools who participated in the Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Movement and Wellness Initiatives for Student Success as well as other professional development programs offered in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Christanne Harrison discusses the successes of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement in Massachusetts.

In an afternoon breakout session Smarter Lunchrooms Movement: Nudging Students to Eat Healthy Christanne Harrison, MPH, RD, Kristen Morello, SNS, School Nutrition Director (Reading, MA) and Kim Purcell, School Nutrition Manager (Central Elementary School, East Bridgewater, MA) discussed the successes of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement in Massachusetts.

During this session the presenters discussed new Smarter Lunchrooms resources as well as steps Massachusetts School Nutrition Programs have implemented to make the healthy choice the easy choice. The Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms initiative was extended for a second year in 2016-2017 and like the first year, it was very successful! Twenty-five schools in Massachusetts applied for and were chosen to receive technical assistance in implementing Smarter Lunchrooms strategies throughout the 2016-2017 school year. Schools were assigned a Smarter Lunchrooms coach who provided technical assistance including completion of the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard, identification of goals and an implementation plan, as well as ongoing communication and access to resources throughout the school year. The Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Movement is unique when compared to other states because of the individualized support and communication between the coach and the school.

Kristin Morello (left) speaks about her experience participating in the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement.

Kristin Morello shared some tips with the audience:

  • Involve the staff in completing your school’s Smarter Lunchrooms goals.
  • Complete the cheapest and easiest goals first.
  • Identify one challenging goal that will take planning and collaboration and use that as a school goal.

Kim Purcell discusses Smarter Lunchrooms from a manager’s perspective.

Kim Purcell explained how collaborations within the school can lead to better outcomes with Smarter Lunchrooms goals. In her school, the principal sometimes describes a fruit or a vegetable over the loud speaker and the students are charged with guessing what it is. Engaging all school staff and students is a wonderful and creative way to get students thinking about fruits and vegetables throughout the school day.

The Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Movement was shared nationally at Cornell University at the 2017 Smarter Lunchrooms Annual Symposium on May 12-13th.

Smarter Lunchrooms summary sheets for each of the participating schools:

To learn more about the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement visit the Smarter Lunchrooms category in the JSI Resource Center and consider becoming a Smarter Lunchrooms school in SY17-18.

Sea to School in Massachusetts

Did you know that seafood is the new Harvest of the Month for May? To kick off the month, SNA of Massachusetts’ Chapter 4 hosted a meeting for school nutrition directors, Directors Round Table: New Menu Ideas on Thursday, April 27th at Framingham High School.

The meeting included a presentation by Jamey Lionette, Director of Sustainable Seafood Program at Red’s Best in which he shared how Red’s Best is changing the system of acquiring seafood by offering a “Catch of the Day” package at a set price, all year long. He explained that a rigid demand for certain species of fish exists, but what is abundant and caught everyday is not always what’s in demand. In an effort to cut back on overfishing certain species, The “Catch of the Day” package provides foodservice operations with underutilized and abundant fish species, diverting the pressure away from heavily fished species such as cod. Since the species that are included in the Catch of the Day are all flakey, white fish, they all produce a similar result when used in recipes and can be interchanged without changing the flavor profile or texture of the dish.

School districts in Massachusetts are on-board with supporting local fishermen to get fresh, local, wild-caught, affordable seafood from Red’s Best. At the meeting Jenny Devivo, Chef and School Nutrition Director from Up Island Regional School District on Martha’s Vineyard, demonstrated preparation of two school nutrition recipes: Catch of the Day Fish Chowder and Catch of the Day Crispy Oven Baked Fish Bites. Chef Devivo explained that her students absolutely love the Catch of the Day recipes offered every Friday, even more than pizza day!

If you’re interested in bringing seafood to your school nutrition program, visit the Farm and Sea to School resource category in the JSI Resource Center to learn more.

Culinary Demos at ESE’s ‘New Child Care Meal Pattern Standards’ Training Day

On Wednesday, January 18, 2017 Child and Adult Care Food Program sponsors and providers from across Massachusetts came together for a professional development event hosted by the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office for Food and Nutrition Programs, with culinary demonstration stations presented by The John C. Stalker Institute through a USDA Team Nutrition grant, Massachusetts Children’s Access to Meals Planned Smart (MassCAMPS).

After lunch participants divided into four groups that rotated through four culinary stations. Each station demonstrated a reimbursable recipe including the cooking techniques to achieve the best product possible. All demonstrated recipes and healthy cooking techniques represented methods that met a new standard or best practice of the updated CACFP Meal Pattern.

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The next ESE ‘New Child Care Meal Pattern Standards’ Training Day will be Tuesday, March 14, 2017 in Westborough, MA. If you are a CACFP sponsor or provider, you are invited to sign up to attend this training. For additional resources and information and about these and other CACFP trainings, visit the MassCAMPS webpage: www.johnstalkerinstitute.org/masscamps/

Massachusetts Team Up for School Nutrition Success

teamup1On November 9th and 10th school nutrition directors from across Massachusetts came together for a Team Up for School Nutrition Success Mentoring event, sponsored by The Institute of Child Nutrition, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), and hosted by The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition. Mentors and participants worked together over the two days to share ideas, experiences, and challenges they’ve faced in school nutrition. The two-day event included breakout sessions that covered financial management, increasing participation and menu planning. These sessions gave participants the opportunity to share ideas, concerns and resources with their peers.

The event provided an opportunity for the sharing of creative solutions through panel discussions. Here are some of the best practices shared:

  • Student sampling surveys where students place empty sample cups into one of two buckets labeled with either a thumbs up or thumbs down symbol. This is an easy method for collecting feedback without the added work of synthesizing survey results. It is a good visual tool to see if the majority of students liked or disliked a recipe. – Crystal Andrade, School Nutrition Director, Old Colony Regional High School, teamup2Rochester, MA
  • It CAN be done! Open your mind, think outside the box. “Attitude is everything – you have to cook with love and serve with love.” – Jacki Dillenback, School Nutrition Director, Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, Orange, MA
  • Incorporate recipes from staff members into the menu. It increases diversity of foods served and the staff are proud to serve these foods. – Jill Lucius, School Nutrition Director, Fitchburg Public Schools, Fitchburg, MA
  • Focus on communication with parents, students, and the community, about who you are and what you do. – Ruth Griffin, School Nutrition Director, Needham Public Schools, Needham, MA

teamup4After sharing ideas and best practices, participants were encouraged to set SMART goals for their own district. Participants worked with mentors to create an action plan to turn newly learned strategies and goals into actionable steps forward.

Participants’ Key Strategies:

  • Meet with principals to discuss methods to increase breakfast participation.
  • Increase participation for lunch by using Smarter Lunchrooms strategies.
  • Try Offer Versus Serve in the classroom.
  • Acquire more grill top space in high schools so that more grilled items can be offered daily.
  • Establish a water-use conservation program by the end of the school year.


The event concluded with a general session appropriately entitled, Going Forward, where ESE staff members echoed the importance of a plan of action moving forward and next steps. Participants were encouraged to continue connections with peers and to take this fresh energy back to their districts and use it to move forward to accomplish their SMART goals. “If you’re open to it, you always walk away with something new.” Sally Teixeira, ESE. The event was very positively received by participants and mentors alike. Here’s what they had to say:

“It’s been excellent. I’ve only been a director for two months so I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how friendly everyone is and how willing they are to help.” – Elissa Maunus, SND, Sutton Public Schools, Sutton, MA

“This opportunity to network and brainstorm about situations and challenges we all face has been super productive.” – Danielle Collins, SND, Chelmsford Public Schools, Chelmsford, MA

“This was the BEST program I have ever attended.  I would recommend it to all Food Service Directors, large and small districts, it brought us together like no other training had done before. – Diane Mikulski, SND, Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School, Worcester, MA

Interested in additional information and resources? Check out Team Up for School Nutrition Success.

Congratulations to the NEW LIFE Program Graduates!

On June 1st, 16 school nutrition professionals graduated from Nutrition, Education & Wellness: Leadership Institute for Excellence (NEW LIFE). These graduates participated in a seven-session knowledge and skill-building program designed to change the way school nutrition directors think and act as leaders. Additionally, they participated in online discussions to network and brainstorm about various topics. The knowledge learned and shared over the last year will serve all participants well in a time when school nutrition has a multitude of demands and new challenges.

new life

Heather Brunette
Jo-Ann Cavanagh
Anthony Grein
Gail Koutroubas
Dawn LaVallee
Lisa Leon
Tara Lightbody
Dianne Mucci
DebraLee Mugford
Heather Shastany
Hillary Standiford
Tess Sousa
Heather Torrey
Deborah Vaughn
Judy White
Dina Wiroll

To view more photos from the NEW LIFE graduation, visit our Pinterest page The JOHN STALKER INSTITUTE (JSI) Rocks.

This post was written by Robyn DeCiero, NEW LIFE Program Coordinator.

2016 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit: Day Two

Dr. Mitchell D. Chester, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Welcomed the audience

Dr. Mitchell D. Chester, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Welcomed the audience

On May 25th, day two of the annual Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit, the day began with a welcome message from Mitchell D. Chester, EdD, Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The morning keynote given by Juliana Cohen, ScM, ScD, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, discussed Successful School Meals: Strategies to increase Selection and Consumption. During this presentation Dr. Juliana Cohen discussed some of her published research in which a significant increase in fruit and vegetable selection and consumption in schools that had chefs long term (seven months) was found. She concluded by pointing out that many of the benefits highlighted in her research are only seen after students have had time to acclimate to the new food choices available and when they are given adequate time to consume their meals.

Dr. Juliana Cohen discussed the strategies to increase selection and consumption

Dr. Juliana Cohen discussed strategies to increase selection and consumption

Breakout sessions continued into day two of the summit in the areas of Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child, Procurement, and Building Human Capital. Conference participants applied learned concepts to their districts by creating an action plan for how to succeed in implementing new ideas or changes to their programs.


Robert Leshin addressed the audience during the News You Can Use presentation

After lunch Robert Leshin, MPA, Acting Director of the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, presented News You Can Use in which he discussed the year in review including MA trends in the National School Lunch Program.

Visit the 2016 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs webpage for presentation files from the summit. To view more photos from the conference, visit our Pinterest page The JOHN STALKER INSTITUTE (JSI) Rocks.

2016 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit: Day One

Dr. Lori Coakley discusses ideas from participants during a breakout session

Dr. Lori Coakley discussed participant ideas during a breakout session

On May 24th school nutrition professionals from Massachusetts came together for the annual Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit at Four Points by Sheraton, Norwood. This annual conference sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition promotes healthy students and healthy school nutrition programs.

The conference kicked off with a welcome from Robert Leshin, MPA, Acting Director of the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Karen McGrail, Med, RD, LDN, Director of the John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition.

Lori Coakley, PhD, Professor of Management, Bryant University, gave the morning keynote Leading Engagement: Transforming Your Human Capital One Employee at a Time where she discussed the ins and outs of employee engagement and gave tips on how to capitalize on employees’ potential. Later Dr. Coakley dove deeper into this topic in her morning and afternoon breakout sessions.

The lunch keynote, Leadership in the Kitchen: Moving Towards a Culture of Ongoing Learning, was given by two presenters from MassTERI who discussed work culture by first comparing it to a garden. They used the following analogy in their explanation…as a gardener (supervisor) you cannot give all your attention to just the plants (employees), you must also consider the ecosystem (culture) since the two affect each other. They continued, “In the kitchen, some things are out of your reach when it comes to affecting the culture.” They also provided several examples of things you CAN control that will positively impact the culture including: how you choose to present policy change, using effective communication, managing conflict by determining what the problem is, using adult learning techniques, and striving to accommodate a variety of learning styles when teaching employees.

Presenters from MassTERI discuss workplace culture and adult learning

Presenters from MassTERI discussed workplace culture and adult learning

Visit the 2016 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs webpage for presentation files from the summit. To view more photos from the conference, visit our Pinterest page The JOHN STALKER INSTITUTE (JSI) Rocks. 

Going Green with School Gardening

tomato plantSchool gardens are continuing to grow in popularity due to their array of benefits to both education and school nutrition programs. With seemingly endless opportunities for garden-based educational lessons in any academic subject, and harvests being incorporated in school meals, school gardens are sprouting up in districts across the state.

Brendan Ryan, the school nutrition director at Framingham Public Schools, is a forerunner in school gardening. He first implemented the district’s admirable 50-yard garden 6 years ago. Each year in May the seeds are planted and the garden is run entirely by students from various clubs, the honors society, and some are even hired as student lead growers who take care of the crops throughout the summer. All food grown in the garden is used to supplement the school nutrition program and provides students with locally grown food.

Are you interested in school gardening? FSU is offering a 4-week online Growing Your School Garden course that starts July 11 and goes until August 5. Click here for registration information. You can also find many useful resources on the Go Green for Schools page in the JSI Resource Center. If gardening isn’t an option for your district, farm to cafeteria is a great way to get locally grown food into your school nutrition program.

Get a Jumpstart on Professional Development this Summer!

As part of the Final Rule for the Professional Standards for All School Nutrition Program Employees the required training hours for school nutrition employees will increase for the 2016-2017 school year, effective July 1, 2016.

Beginning school year 2016-2017, annual continuing education/training requirements are as follows:

  • All directors must get at least 12 hours
  • All managers must get at least 10 hours
  • All other staff who work an average of at least 20 hours/week must get at least 6 hours
  • Part-time staff who work <20 hours/week must get at least 4 hours

The John C. Stalker Institute offers many different options for continuing education and training for directors, managers and staff.

Chef Tracey Burg, RD presents at Healthy Cuisine for Kids

Chef Tracey Burg, RD presents at Healthy Cuisine for Kids

Healthy Cuisine for Kids
Healthy Cuisine for Kids is a two-day training for school nutrition staff. The training is hands-on and covers culinary and nutrition topics such as healthy cooking methods and nutrition principles of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Participants will work in teams to prepare, evaluate, and present healthy, student-friendly recipes. Healthy Cuisine for Kids will take place at Cambridge Public Schools on August 4th and 5th from 8:00am – 5:00pm. Register here by July 15th.

Nuts & Bolts of School Nutrition
Nuts & Bolts of School Nutrition, a yearlong series of face-to-face and online trainings, is designed for school nutrition directors in Massachusetts to strengthen their knowledge of school nutrition program requirements. Education specialists from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office for Food and Nutrition Programs will provide essential training on meal benefit issuance, resource management and food service operations. The series kicks off on August 2-4th with 3 days of training at Framingham State University from 8:00am – 3:30pm.

Management Institute
The Management Institute is a three-day institute for school nutrition managers covering leadership, financial management, personnel management, communication, marketing and nutrition. The Management Institute is taking place at the Devens Common Center in Devens, MA on August 16-18 from 8:00am – 4:00pm. Be sure to register by July 29th.

Take advantage of these August offerings to get a jumpstart on 2016-2017 professional development for you and your team! Visit JSI’s website for more information on these and other offerings.