On Friday April 11th I visited Gail Oliveira, RD, LDN, SNS, school nutrition director of Swansea Public Schools to observe their school nutrition program as part of the lab experience for my Framingham State University Foodservice Systems class. Swansea Public Schools is an account of Chartwells.
During my visit Gail expressed the simplicity of menu planning with the menu development program Webtrition2, which is approved by the USDA to meet the school nutrition guidelines. The efficiency of the program allows Gail more creative freedom as she able to easily make changes and incorporate new concepts. She often collaborates with the Kitchen Manager, Chef Karen for new and exciting menu ideas such as baked stuffed broccoli and cheese potatoes (shown on the right).
The serving line at the district’s high school was recently updated to accommodate several new serving stations including a very popular deli counter where students can request customized wraps and paninis for lunch. Other popular lunches include fruit and yogurt parfaits, sweet and sour chicken with brown rice and stir-fry veggies, and homemade pizza.
Visit JSI’s Resource Center for recipe and menu ideas! JSI’s workshop Infusing Flavor and Flair into School Meals is being offered at the SNA of Mass Chapter Meetings. In this workshop K-12 culinary trends, food presentation techniques and flavor profiles with student appeal are explored to encourage increased participation. Contact your chapter delegate for locations and dates for this workshop.
Colorful fruits and veggies on the serving line
Grilled turkey and cheese panini with spinach and tomato
Sweet and sour chicken with brown rice and stir-fry vegetables
Fruit and yogurt parfait
On Wednesday April 6, 2016 the Boston Globe in collaboration with Let’s Talk about Food hosted a two-hour session, Stepping Up to the Plate: Creating Tasty, Healthy and Affordable School Lunches, at the Boston Public Market.
The evening featured demonstrations and discussions around local successes as seen at Fenway High School in Boston. Earlier this school year Fenway High, in collaboration with Project Bread, transformed their kitchen into a test kitchen where Chef Guy Koppe and Chef Gaitskell Cleghorn Jr. have been whipping up budget-friendly, exciting and healthy recipes that students have been extremely receptive to.
Culinary demonstrations from Project Bread’s Chef Guy Koppe, and owner of local restaurants Rialto and TRADE Chef Jody Adams showcased the simplicity with which tasty, healthy and affordable lunches can be made. During the demos Chef Jody Adams noted the importance of incorporating umami flavor into dishes to give consumers a satisfied feeling. Two ways to add umami flavor to school lunches is to start by browning garlic, or to add tomatoes to the dish. Students from Fenway High’s Culinary Club served as a taste test panel and confirmed that both chefs’ creations were a hit.
Later in the evening Brendan Ryan, the school nutrition director of Framingham Public Schools closed out the session with a discussion of Framingham High School’s extensive courtyard garden that produces fresh produce for the school nutrition program and gets students involved. Brendan mentioned that in his experience, K-12 students are more likely to enjoy dishes that are made with five ingredients or less.
Visit JSI’s Resource Center to get information on how you can bring a chef or garden to your school nutrition program!
Join school nutrition directors and business managers from across the Commonwealth at the 2016 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit on May 24th and 25th! On May 25, 2016, keynote speakers will present General Sessions in the morning and afternoon. In the morning, learn about strategies to increase selection and consumption with Juliana Cohen, ScM, ScD, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
During the afternoon keynote session, learn about news you can use with Rob Leshin, Acting Director of the Office for Nutrition, Health and Safety of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This session will open with greetings from Aleshia Hall-Campbell, Acting Executive Director of the Institute of Child Nutrition.
The 2016 Summit will be held at Four Points by Sheraton, Norwood. Attendees can earn up to 6 hours of professional development each day of the Summit, don’t forget to register by May 6th!
Join school nutrition directors and business managers from across the Commonwealth at the 2016 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit on May 24th and 25th! The conference, sponsored by the Office for Nutrition, Health and Safety at 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.
On May 24, 2016, keynote speakers will present General Sessions in the morning and afternoon. Learn about employee engagement and how to capitalize on your employees’ potential! Lori Coakley, PhD, a professor in the Department of Management at Bryant University, will speak about leading engagement in the morning keynote session. Dive deeper into employee engagement with Dr. Coakley as she builds off of her morning presentation with a breakout session Building Employee Engagement and Fostering Effective Communication.
Discover how to develop your team and move your school nutrition program toward a culture of ongoing learning later in the day! Gloria A. Santa Anna, Sonia Lindop, Sarah Kahando and Jacob Carter will speak on behalf of Massachusetts Training, Education and Research Initiative (MassTERI) of the Labor/Management Workplace Education Program (L/MWEP) during the afternoon keynote presentation Leadership in the Kitchen: Moving Towards a Culture of Ongoing Learning.
The 2016 Summit will be held at Four Points by Sheraton, Norwood. Attendees can earn up to 6 hours of professional development each day of the Summit, forget to register by May 6th!
Chef Tracey Burg, RD
On Friday March 11, 2016 I had the pleasure of observing the JSI Workshop to Go Knife Skills: Be a Cut Above the Rest! presented by Chef Tracey Burg, RD at Auburn Public Schools. The school nutrition director at Auburn Public Schools, Janice King, MEd, RDN, SNS, CDE, scheduled the 2-hour workshop as a fun, hands-on way to incorporate professional development for her staff as she hopes to cultivate a culinary culture within the district’s school nutrition program.
During the workshop Chef Tracey reviewed knife-handling skills where she explained the importance of using knife safety precautions. She emphasized that using the proper blade for the task at hand can greatly minimize risk.
Auburn Public Schools school nutrition program employees practice newly learned knife skills.
Blade sharpening techniques were also reviewed and Chef Tracey explained that a dull knife could sometimes be more dangerous than a sharp one because it requires extra pressure that could cause food to slip.
Chef Tracey also did several culinary demonstrations that were followed by participant practice time. Participants learned how to do various types of cuts including dice, cube, and batonnet. Lastly, Chef Tracey demonstrated fun garnishing techniques that really got participants excited to practice!
Bring this and other workshops directly to your school! Visit JSI’s website to request a workshop today. Materials from this workshop are available on the Cooking Basics and Knife Skills page within the JSI Resource Center. Check out more images from this workshop on JSI’s Pinterest page.
Various garnishing techniques by Chef Tracey Burg
The 2016 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit will be held at the Four Points by Sheraton Norwood on May 24th and 25th. The two-day conference is sponsored by the Office for Nutrition, Health and Safety at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition. School nutrition directors and business managers from across the Commonwealth are invited and encouraged to register to attend both days. The conference is aimed at promoting healthy students and healthy school nutrition programs. During the morning and afternoon on both days the following presenters will hold general sessions:
Three distinct learning tracks offer attendees an in depth learning opportunity. When you register, select the track that best meets your interests and learning needs.
- Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child
- Building Human Capital
The Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit brochure will be arriving in your mail this week! Register online by May 6, 2016.
Click image to download USDA poster/sticker JPG
Often times simply changing menu options is not enough to increase participation. Promoting new options is a key step in getting students to choose them. Taste tests for students are a fun and interactive way to gauge how receptive students are to a new recipe before offering it on the menu plus it allows you to get useful feedback that can be used to implement changes in the future. Taste testing exposes children to new and different foods. Did you know that a child might have to try a food up to ten or more times before accepting it?
The Ohio Smarter Lunchrooms Movement Taste Testing Getting Started Guide offers tips to increase student participation in taste tests so that you can get the most accurate assessment of student preferences possible.
- Promote the event with signage to get students excited for taste testing day! Be sure to include appealing features of the item and creative adjectives to describe it.
- Set up the taste testing station in a place that will prompt students as they pass –don’t forget to use verbal prompts to encourage students to taste.
- Ensure that the sample item is visually appealing to students. Fresh, colorful, bite size portions are best.
- Document feedback from surveys, comment cards, student votes, or verbal responses. Click here to download a free taste testing form from USDA.
Mount Clemens, Michigan Broccoli Carrot Salad samples
VT Feed’s Guide to Taste Testing Local Food in Schools suggests developing a food committee of parents and teachers who support the program while other schools have started student clubs that help generate new food ideas that can be used for preliminary testing or to help prepare the food for taste testing day.
Additional taste test resources such as fliers, comment cards, stickers, and posters are available on the Ohio Smarter Lunchroom page. For additional resources on taste testing, visit JSI’s Resource Center.
Left image credit: this image was found on the School Meals that Rock Pinterest page.
As School Nutrition Program regulations have evolved over the past few years, school nutrition directors are taking innovative approaches to culinary trends to enhance the appeal of healthy foods to students to improve participation.
Explore K-12 culinary trends, food presentation techniques and flavor profiles with student appeal to enhance school meals and encourage increased participation with JSI’s new workshop, Infusing Flavor and Flair in School Meals. The workshop is being offered at all five SNA of MA chapter meetings.
- Themed meal stations provide options, allowing students a greater degree of meal customization. Some examples that schools are offering include yogurt bars, pasta bars, burrito stations, salad bars, Asian noodle bars, deli stations, and mac and cheese bars.
Burrito Bar at Bigelow Middle School, Newton, MA
Deli Bar at Tigard-Tualatin School District, Tigard, OR
- Fruit displays are attention grabbing and encourage students to choose a fruit component. Improve the knife handling skills of your school nutrition staff with JSI’s hands-on Workshop to Go Knife Skills: Be a Cut Above the Rest! This workshop teaches different types of cuts, blade sharpening skills, garnishing techniques, and safety precautions.
Hartnett Middle School, Blackstone, MA
Meigs Middle School, Shalimar, FL
Quaker Valley Schools Sewickley, PA
- Meat alternate entrees are gaining popularity as a cost effective and sustainable school meal. Many schools have joined the worldwide Meatless Mondays Movement and are offering students meat alternate entrées every Monday to encourage more sustainable food choices. JSI’s Back to Basics: Meat Alternates Workshop to Go can provide you and your team ideas on how to serve more beans, legumes, yogurt, eggs and other meat alternates that look good and taste great. This hands-on culinary class demonstrates easy cooking techniques for meat alternates that you will be proud to serve.
Fiesta Burrito Bowl Coppell ISD, TX
- Flavor stations have been implemented in many lunchrooms. Flavor stations are simple, stations or carts containing various spices and condiments that allow students to add their individual palette-pleasing flavors to their meals such as hot sauce, red pepper flakes, basil, and garlic and herb seasoning.
Flavor station in Billerica, MA
Flavor station in Decorah, IA
- Scratch and speed scratch cooking methods have regained popularity in school nutrition programs as regulations have gotten stricter. Scratch and speed scratch cooking allows school nutrition programs to make ingredient substitutions in recipes that would otherwise not meet the standards while also cutting food costs. JSI’s Back to Basics Workshops to Go are a series of 3-hour culinary trainings developed for school nutrition staff to expand culinary skills and promote healthier, made from scratch and speed scratch, menu options to meet the meal pattern requirements. Scratch cooking recipes and menus for school nutrition programs can be found on the Recipe page of the JSI Resource Center. JSI’s Recipe Tool can be used to analyze snack recipes made at your school to determine if they meet both the state and federal nutrition standards for snacks.
Image credit: The images used in this post were found on the School Meals that Rock Pinterest page.
Offering locally grown foods in your school nutrition program can help encourage students to eat more fresh vegetables and fruits, increase meal participation, decrease waste while supporting the local agricultural economy and reduce the carbon footprint of the community!
The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) serves as a national networking program focused on facilitating relationships between local farms and communities seeking locally sourced food. Additionally, NFSN helps bring food and agriculture education into school systems and preschools. Since its inception in the late 1990s, participation has grown tremendously. The USDA Farm to School Census indicates that schools across the country invested more than half a billion dollars in local foods in the 2013-2014 school year with more than 42,000 schools involved in farm to school activities.
2016 USDA Farm to School Grants were awarded to four organizations in Massachusetts for training, implementation, and support service including Massachusetts Farm to School Project Bread – The Walk for Hunger in Amherst, Quincy Public Schools, Somerville Public Schools, and The Open Door Food Pantry in Gloucester. Congratulations to all recipients!
The Massachusetts Farm to School Project is the local branch of the NFSN that provides individual assistance to school cafeterias and other institutional food service operations across the state. The MA Farm to School Project also works to promote local food and agriculture education for students and through their Harvest of the Month campaign they are inspiring healthy food choices by encouraging schools to increase student exposure to Massachusetts’ seasonal foods.
“The Massachusetts Farm to School Project seeks to increase access to healthy, locally grown food in schools and other institutions for the good of our children, our farms and our communities.”
MA Farm to School will join a panel in one of the sessions at the upcoming Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit scheduled for May 24th and 25th, 2016! Be sure to visit JSI’s Resource Center for more Farm to School resources.
The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement is a research-based initiative focused on creating sustainable lunchrooms that help guide students to make smarter choices. The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement was established at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program and is funded by the USDA ERS/FNS. JSI has collaborated with the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement since 2012. In association with a Team Nutrition Grant, JSI has partnered with Smarter Lunchrooms to bring relevant professional development resources and technical assistance to fifty schools in Massachusetts since 2014, and the initiative will continue through June of 2016!
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health offered a Wellness Initiative for Student Success training opportunity. For this initiative School Wellness Teams utilized the School Health Index, the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard, and the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP). Once the program is completed this year, the participating schools in MA will have the tools to apply for the HealthierUS School Challenge and Let’s Move Active Schools recognition, and are encouraged to sign up to become a USDA Team Nutrition School!
The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement provides an effective set of best practices meant to create an environment that encourages students to make healthful choices. The best practices listed below are easy, and inexpensive or free proven methods of increasing the number of students who make healthy choices in five key areas.
- Increase the number of students that select fruit –use signage and verbal prompts to attract attention to fruit and encourage students to take some.
- Increase the number of students that select targeted entrée –display creative age-targeted food item names on a poster or menu board outside the cafeteria.
- Increase the number of students that select vegetables –create a SNAC (Student Nutrition Action Committee) of students responsible for the naming of and creating signage for veggies.
- Increase the number of students that select reimbursable meals –create a health-items-only convenience line stocked with fruits, vegetables, premade sandwiches and salads and lowest-fat/lowest-sodium entrée items.
- Increase the number of students that select white milk –white milk should account for at least 1/3 of beverage options displayed in each cooler.
Additionally, you can find many useful links to Smarter Lunchrooms resources in JSI’s Smarter Lunchrooms category in the Resource Center.