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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

Teaching Sustainable Practices with School Gardens

school gardenSchool gardening is quickly becoming popular in schools across the nation as a sustainable practice that also serves as a powerful education tool for students of all ages. Engaging garden lessons provide hands-on learning for any academic subject.

Lessons can include healthy lifestyle and nutrition concepts, connection with nature and the community, sustainability, school pride, historical practices, and the importance of sustained care from seed to harvest.

Many schools in Massachusetts have already started school gardens. To name a few, Amherst, Andover, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Dorchester, Easthampton, Holyoke, Framingham, Natick, New Bedford, Northampton, Springfield, Taunton, Watertown and Williamsburg all feature gardens in some or all of their schools. Similarly, Foxborough Public Schools has indoor hydroponic garden towers that produce nutritious food for the cafeteria year round.

There are grant opportunities to help fund your agricultural education project! Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom partnered with Massachusetts State Grange, Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources, the Massachusetts Dairy Promotions Board and more, awards mini-grants to educators ranging from $300-$500. Grant winners are allowed to receive the grant up to 3 times for a maximum of $1,500. Additionally, City Sprouts of Cambridge, MA partners with public schools to aid in school garden implementation and provides resources for teachers.

Are you interested in school gardening? FSU is offering a 4-week online School Gardening 101 course that starts January 11 and goes until February 5. Click here to view the syllabus and registration information. You can also find many useful resources in the Go Green for Schools page in the JSI Resource Center.

A Day in the Life of a School Nutrition Director – Foxborough

Friday November 6th I had the pleasure of visiting Allison Johnson, the School Nutrition Director at Foxborough Public Schools to learn more about the school nutrition program within the Foxborough Public School District. During this visit Allison gave me a tour of the operations within both Taylor Elementary School and John J. Ahern Middle School.

Hydroponic tower gardens growing romaine lettuce (left), cucumbers (upper right tower), grape tomatoes (middle right tower), and green peppers (lower right tower).

Hydroponic tower gardens growing romaine lettuce (left), cucumbers (upper right tower), grape tomatoes (middle right tower), and green peppers (lower right tower).

The operation at Taylor Elementary School is unique featuring a hydroponic garden that produces vegetables that are harvested for the lunch program. Allison implemented the garden using grant money obtained from the School Garden Grant from the Whole Kids Foundation of Whole Food Market. Of the five public schools in the district, Taylor Elementary is the pilot school for the hydroponic garden. Allison reported that students became more excited about eating vegetables knowing that they were grown in their school and that the food grown from this project is also freeing up some money in the budget that can be allocated towards purchasing higher quality foods. She hopes to eventually implement the successful initiative in the other schools in the future.

image4All of the five public schools in Foxborough feature salad bars that were obtained through the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Whole Kids Foundation Grant. Salad bars are an outstanding way to display colorful fruit and vegetable options and they include tongs and sneeze guards to ensure safe handling. Upon implementing the salad bars Allison educated students on how to properly use the salad bar, demonstrating that students should turn away and sneeze or cough into their arm when necessary. Furthermore, to minimize waste students are encouraged to take only what they can eat from the salad bar and are allowed to return for additional helpings at no extra cost.

Each month the lunch menus for the district include a “Harvest of the Month” produce item that is included in some of the month’s recipes. November’s harvest is kale so the middle school was offering Kale Apple Salad as a side dish on Friday, encouraging students to try new things. Additionally the menus feature “Meatless Monday” once each month. On this day all meals are meatless which is a great way to cut costs and minimize the district’s carbon footprint.

Check out JSI’s Pinterest board, The JOHN STALKER INSTITUTE (JSI) Rocks to see more images from this visit!

JSI can help your school nutrition program become more sustainable. Check out our Go Green for Schools Resources and the JSI Resource Center for ideas!

Smarter Lunchrooms in Massachusetts

In association with a Team Nutrition grant, JSI has partnered with the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, to provide Smarter Lunchrooms trainings, technical assistance, and support to Massachusetts schools. From this partnership, school nutrition directors and managers will learn how to identify and create strategies to increase the amount of nutrient-dense foods that students consume in their lunchrooms.

The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement incorporates simple, low-cost and no-cost changes to the school meal environment, encouraging students to take and eat more nutritious foods. Six principles of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement include:Salad bar at Bellingham Middle School, MA copy

  1. Manage portion sizes. For example, use smaller containers and plates.
  2. Increase convenience of healthy foods.
  3. Improve visibility of nutritious foods.
  4. Enhance taste expectations, such as by giving food items creative names.
  5. Utilize suggestive selling, including giving cues for positive communication.
  6. Set smart pricing strategies. Healthy food “bundles” can encourage nutritious choices.

To evaluate your lunchroom, the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard can be used to see where you are doing well and to identify areas for improvement. From this collaboration, school nutrition directors and managers will create 10 areas to improve their school lunchrooms, with at least one goal in each of the six focus areas: focusing on fruit, promoting vegetables and salad, moving more white milk, entree of the day, increased sales/reimbursable meals, and creating school synergies. Sales and participation of the school meal program will be assessed before and after the goals are implemented.

Smarter Lunchrooms trainings, technical assistance, and support will be provided from May 2015 – June 2016, reaching 50 schools in Massachusetts.

For more about the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, visit the Smarter Lunchrooms page in the JSI Resource Center.

South Middlesex Regional Gets Back to Basics with Fresh Vegetables and Fruits

South Middlesex Regional Vocational Technical High School hosted a favorite JSI Workshop to Go on Wednesday April 8th: Back to Basics – Fresh Vegetables and Fruits. School nutrition staff received a hands-on culinary training, learning healthy new ways to spruce up vegetables and fruits for school meals.

JSI instructor Chef Brendan Gallagher taught the staff about the importance of vegetables and fruits in our diets, culinary techniques to prepare fresh produce, and different ways to incorporate them into different meals.


Chef Brendan presenting roasted vegetables to the staff.

Some tips included:

  • Use as minimally processed vegetables and fruits as possible.
  • Emphasize and encourage the consumption of vegetables and fruits to students.
  • Offer vegetarian menu items as options, along with a typical meat entree, to expose students to meatless choices.
  • Source locally grown products for the school cafeteria.
  • Encourage kids to try unique and new foods.
  • Sneak vegetables and fruits into any and every meal you can – try putting kale on pizzas, in soups, or in other entrees.

The staff were eager to prepare the recipes and practice the skills they learned.


Staff members working hard to prepare the Roasted Vegetable Wrap…

…And the final product – whole wheat tortillas filled with roasted peppers, onions, and carrots, and a little bit of ranch dressing and cheddar cheese!














All of the resources featured in the Back to Basics – Fresh Vegetables and Fruits workshop, and other Workshops to Go, can be found in the JSI Resource Center.

South Middlesex Regional is one of many schools taking full advantage of the MetroWest Health Foundation grant. This grant makes funds available during the 2014-2015 school year for the 25 MetroWest towns, covering the cost of up to two JSI Workshops to Go. Each school district from the MetroWest area is eligible! Be sure to schedule your training before the school year is up!

And take a look at South Middlesex Regional’s pride in their JSI trainings – with their aprons, badges, and certificates proudly hanging in their kitchen! Way to go!IMG_2147

Free School Nutrition Workshops for MetroWest Schools


mwf.logo.colorThanks to a grant from the MetroWest Health Foundation, funds are available during the 2014-2015 school year to cover the cost of up to two JSI Workshops to Go. Each school district from the 25 MetroWest towns shown below are eligible. It is as easy as 1,2,3…

Map of the MetroWest towns and cities

Map of the 25 communities served by the MetroWest Health Foundation



1. Select up to two Workshops to Go

2. Schedule your Workshop to Go

3. Enter WAIVED METROWEST in the PO/Check Number field


The Foundation serves the MetroWest region of Massachusetts. This includes the following 25 communities and school districts:

Ashland, Bellingham, Dover, Framingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Medfield, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millis, Natick, Needham, Norfolk, Northborough, Sherborn, Southborough, Sudbury, Wayland, Wellesley, and Westborough

View the flyer for this grant.

Read the descriptions of our Workshops to Go.

Request a Workshop to Go. Make sure to write “Waived MetroWest” in the PO/Check Number field!


The Challenge is On to Increase School Breakfast Participation

Can a little friendly competition boost school breakfast participation in Massachusetts? The Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) and the New England Food & Dairy Council (NEFDC) think so, and have served up the Massachusetts School Breakfast Challenge.

SBClog bkfst challengeAccording to their website, increasing school breakfast participation is important because research shows “schools that implement breakfast programs see improvements in attendance, behavior, and test scores.” But among Massachusetts public school students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, nearly two thirds do not eat school breakfast, ranking our state 35th nationwide (source).

The Massachusetts School Breakfast challenge aims to help increase school breakfast participation by 35% from January 2013 to December 2014 in districts across the state. All districts with a school breakfast program are automatically enrolled, and schools will compete in one of two groups: districts with 39% or fewer students eligible for free/reduced lunch; and districts with 40% or more of students eligible for free/reduced lunch.

To help schools seeking to start up or expand their school breakfast program, Mass DESE and NEFDC – along with partners Mass SNA, Project Bread & the Mass Dept of Agriculture – are offering $75,000 in funding (up to $4,000 per school). The funding is available to help schools increase awareness of and access to nutrient-rich foods and physical activity opportunities for students. Act quickly – applications are due by December 20 2012!

To find out more, visit the Massachusetts School Breakfast Challenge website and read the FAQs.

JSI can also help you develop healthy and tasty ideas that encourage participation in your school’s breakfast program. In our six-hour Healthy Breakfast for Kids workshop, managers and school nutrition staff explore delicious and nutritious options to offer students to help them start their day and improve academic performance. The dates and locations for this workshop will be available on the JSI web site and in the JSI 2013 Spring brochure mailed to schools early January 2013.

Congrats to MA Recipients of USDA Farm to School Grants!

The fiscal year 2013 USDA Farm to School grants – 68 in total, worth $4.5 million and reaching 37 states plus D.C. – have been announced and JSI would like to congratulate the three Massachusetts recipients:

  • Massachusetts Farm to School Project (under the Farm Bureau Agricultural Preservation Corporation) will receive a $100,000 grant for an 18-month project to create a statewide Farm to School Nework, provide culinary leadership training to food service professionals, implement programs in low-income school districts, and more.
  • Boston Public Schools will also receive a $100,000 grant to “expand student and community engagement through farm field trips, experiential learning opportunities, and community dinners, and also build cafeteria staff capacity through culinary training.”
  • Ezra H. Baker Elementary in West Dennis was awarded nearly $30,000 for the “Three Sisters Project,” which uses multi-disciplinary activities and curriculum to reconnect students to the agricultural heritage on Cape Cod.

These Massachusetts organizations and schools are among the first class of grantees under the USDA farm to school program. This program was authorized and funded with the Healthy Hunger?Free Kids Act of 2010 in order to assist eligible entities in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools.

If you’d like to learn more about Farm to School initiatives, check out the Go Green for School page in the JSI Resource Center. In the Garden and Farm to School category, we feature online resources focused on increasing access to healthy, locally grown food in schools.

Project Bread offers 2012-13 grants for JSI Back to Basics Workshops

Statewide anti-hunger organization, Project Bread, is offering up to $1500 in grant funds to help low-income Massachusetts school districts participate in JSI’s Back To Basics culinary training Workshops to Go series!

JSI’s Back to Basics is a series of 3-hour culinary trainings including Fresh Vegetables & Fruits and Whole Grains (both currently available to schedule), and upcoming  Meat & Meat Alternatives and Dairy (both available to schedule starting in January 2013). Links to online resources featured in Back to Basics trainings are available in the JSI Resource Center.

To be eligible, districts must have one school with at least 50% of children eligible for free/reduced meals, or multiple schools with at least 40% of children eligible for free/reduced meals. Project Bread will give priority to districts with self-operated school nutrition programs. In addition to covering the cost for the JSI Back to Basics workshop, grant funds may also be used to purchase food supplies needed for the workshop, subsidize the cost of employees’ time to attend the workshop, and/or purchase small equipment to enable scratch cooking in your school kitchens. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through April 30 2013 – find out more here.