Coming in 2020! Back to Basics: Indian Fare

The team of culinary instructors at The John C. Stalker Institute gathered for a test run of the new Back to Basics: Indian Fare Workshop to Go which will be available in early 2020.

JSI Chef Brendan demonstrates key components of new Indian Fare culinary workshop.

JSI Chef Brendan demonstrates key components of new Indian Fare culinary workshop.

Like our other globally-inspired culinary workshops, Indian Fare is designed to spice up your menu with a taste of India and entice your students with a customizable Build-Your-Own Indian dish! This hands-on culinary workshop is designed to advance the culinary skills of school staff and give them the skills and confidence to make delicious recipes, such as tandoori chicken, chana masala, aloo gobi, and much more!

Here is a sneak peek of a few of the new, flavor-filled recipes to be featured in the new Indian Fare workshop.

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Keep an eye out in January for the new professional development brochure which will feature Back to Basics: Indian Fare and other new workshops for 2020! Request a culinary Workshop to Go on the JSI webpage and bring training directly to your staff this school year. Let’s get cooking!

Back to Basics Recipes Now Available Online!

Build Your Own Stir-Fry Bowl Signage

Build Your Own Stir-Fry Bowl Signage

Livening up school menus has just been made simpler with the addition of our Back to Basics Workshops to Go recipes to the JSI website! These student-approved, globally-inspired recipes are standardized and include nutritionals and meal component information. Each set of recipes creates a customizable meal, including a BYO Stir-Fry bowl, Street Taco and Pita Pocket, that your students will love and will fit into your OVS menu.

Would you staff benefit from an extra boost of confidence and culinary skill building? Request one of our Back to Basics culinary Workshops to Go and your staff will be ready to menu these customizable globally-inspired meals. These recipes can be used to freshen up school menus with peach salsa and a build-your-own street taco with the Back to Basics: Latin Cuisine Workshop to Go, feature student favorites such as vegetable stir-fry and chicken teriyaki with the Back to Basics: Asian Fusion Workshop to Go, or introduce new flavors such as tzatziki or shawarma with the Back to Basics: Mediterranean Flavors Workshop to Go.

To help support staff members in executing the new cuisine learned during the Workshops to Go, JSI also offers a Live-Setting Culinary Training which brings the JSI chef back to your school following one of our Back to Basics workshops to guide school nutrition staff during regular production hours. Find more information about requesting a Workshop to Go at your school.

NEW! Coming in early 2020, Back to Basics: Indian Fare Workshop to Go!

Setting the Globally-Inspired Lunchroom Table

Back to Basics: Asian Fusion Lunch Tray

Back to Basics: Asian Fusion Lunch Tray

The JSI Back to Basics Workshops to Go are 3-hour internationally-inspired culinary workshops dedicated to expanding the culinary skills of school nutrition staff and promoting healthier, freshly cooked, and customizable school menu options. In Back to Basics: Asian Fusion, staff advance their culinary skills and confidence in preparing a customizable Build-Your-Own Asian bowl with student-favorites such as chicken teriyaki, crispy tofu, confetti fried, rice, and more! Back to Basics: Latin American Cuisine brings authentic Latin American flavors to schools and teaches school nutrition staff how to prepare a Build-Your-Own Street Taco menu option featuring fish tacos, fresh salsa, Spanish rice, and more!

 

These new menu-driven culinary workshops were created from a collaboration between the JSI Nutrition Education Specialist Jumana Saleh and the JSI chefs. In a recent interview, Saleh shared her observations from a recent visit to schools. “What’s been really fun is that the school nutrition staff are talking about how they can apply the workshops in their schools. Once the recipes are complete and we’ve set up the meal the way it would be served to the students, the school nutrition staff get to try and evaluate the customizable meal. They love it and start discussing how they will be able to execute and implement it – which means they’re taking it seriously.”

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Incorporating new flavors does not have to be a daunting task for school nutrition programs. Workshop menus are crafted to ensure flavors pair together well, recipe are standardized, nutritional analysis is completed and NSLP meal components are identified, and options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians are included.

A huge benefit of the Back to Basics culinary workshops is the wealth of knowledge from the JSI chef instructors.  Districts vary significantly and the chefs recognize and adapt to the differences in space and equipment available in school kitchens. “JSI chefs give the staff tips and tricks that boost culinary confidence in the kitchen. The JSI chef teaches them how to adjust their own settings and how to utilize what their school kitchen has available.”

Back to Basics: Latin American Cuisine Lunch Tray

Back to Basics: Latin American Cuisine Lunch Tray

Upon the completion of a Back to Basics culinary workshop, schools who would like additional chef support are encouraged to request a Live-Setting Culinary Training, where the JSI chef returns to facilitate the new customizable meal alongside kitchen staff during regular hours.

“At the end, because it’s customized menu, everyone’s plate has similar flavors but with their own creative twist. We encourage having students be able to explore things without it feeling like a huge commitment – like trying tofu without having it be their whole meal. We aim to expose the kids to foods from all over the world and try more things and be healthier overall.”

Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit – Highlights for May 22, 2019

Join school nutrition directors, managers and business managers from across the Commonwealth at the 2019 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit on May 21 and 22 aimed at promoting healthy students and healthy school nutrition programs. Check out the highlights for May 22nd!

Chef Dan Giusti, founder of Brigaid

The excitement from the first day of the summit continues with a morning keynote presentation Finding a Purpose in Cooking: A Chef’s Story by Chef Dan Giusti. In this keynote, Dan explains his journey of stepping out of his comfort zone to find his purpose in cooking and utilize his goal to empower schools to serve real, wholesome food, cooked with care and passion. With this goal in mind, he founded Brigaid in 2016 and uses his experience to share valuable lessons he has learned along the way about the challenge of cooking in schools and discuss what the future holds.

We look forward to celebrating the successes of Massachusetts school nutrition programs and professionals during our recognition ceremony on the morning of May 22nd. In the afternoon, Robert Leshin, Director of the Office for Food and Nutrition at DESE will share News You Can Use. As we wind down from this school year and transition to planning for next fall, Rob will take a look back on our collective successes over the past year and look forward to some new initiatives. Rob will provide an update on federal and state level changes and highlight areas of support from the department to help school nutrition programs reach their goals.

May 22nd Breakthrough Sessions

May 22nd Breakthrough Sessions

As in previous years, when you register, you will select from one of three learning tracks to target your professional development. The Boost Your Bottom Line track offers the opportunity to learn from other directors about their favorite products in USDA Foods – Director Tested, Kid Approved or learn where to find local foods and procurement methods in Local Procurement in Child Nutrition Programs. Ensure your communication skills are in top shape with the Communicate with Confidence track by learning how to diagnose misunderstanding and sharing your own perspectives with Wait. What? Or How to Get Curious When the Other Person is Clearly Wrong. Engagement and motivation also play a role in communication, so we’ve included Creating a Motivating Workplace, an ICN-developed session, where managers will explore factors that motivate staff to be engaged and productive. If your goal is to discover culinary resources and new inspirations to enhance your school menu, you won’t want to miss the Build Culinary Excitement track. Join Massachusetts Farm to School, Project Bread and Massachusetts school nutrition programs in a culinary battle highlighting local ingredients in The Power of Local – Culinary Throwdown. This track also offers tips, tricks and a food demo by Chef Samantha Gasbarro for utilizing USDA foods to create trendy, student-approved recipes on a budget with Modernizing USDA Food Recipes – Keeping Menus Trendy and Budget Friendly.

Register online by May 1st. We look forward to seeing you at the summit!

Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit – Highlights for May 21, 2019

Join school nutrition directors, managers and business managers from across the Commonwealth at the 2019 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit on May 21 and 22 aimed at promoting healthy students and healthy school nutrition programs. Check out the highlights for May 21st!

Jon Colby, morning keynote speaker.

We kick off the summit in high gear with Jon Colby’s morning improv keynote session Don’t Worry…Work Happy. Did you know that people who are happy at work are more successful in their jobs? This might seem obvious, but it’s actually backed by Harvard research. In fact, one study proves that managers can improve their customer satisfaction rating by 42% simply by having a positive mindset. In this keynote, Jon will offer helpful tips and exercises using positive psychology to promote a positive mindset. From building a supportive culture to having difficult conversations, you won’t want to miss this dynamic presentation which will give you a myriad of ideas to help you work happy.

 

Ervin Watson, afternoon keynote speaker.

We are thrilled to offer the Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace as the afternoon keynote session by Ervin Watson. Ervin will share insight on appreciation as a communication strategy that has the potential to accelerate every area of your operation. Discover how this approach can boost employee engagement, retention, team satisfaction and, ultimately, customer service.

New this year! A designated time for exhibits has been included on the schedule for May 21st. Be sure to take advantage of the wealth of resources from our exhibitors!

As in previous years, when you register, you will select from one of three learning tracks to target your professional development. Our afternoon keynote speaker, Ervin Watson, will spend the day with us leading both of the Communicate with Confidence breakout sessions where you will learn the Four Essential Habits of a Game Changer and take a deeper dive into the Five Languages of Appreciation with a self-evaluation to determine the “language” of your staff – leading you to an action plan you can implement in your program. The Boost Your Bottom Line learning track offers hot topics in school nutrition you won’t want to miss, including Solutions to Recovering Unpaid Meal Charges and Thinking Outside the Lunch Tray – Strategies to Increase Revenue. If you are looking for innovative ways to integrate chefs into your school nutrition program, the Build Culinary Excitement learning track is for you! Setting the Globally-Inspired Lunchroom Table showcases cultural dishes and flavors from Eastern Asia, Latin America and the Mediterranean region with a culinary demo and school recipes to match Gen Z food trends. Explore how school nutrition programs across the Commonwealth are Adding Chefs into the Mix during this panel discussion of a variety different ways schools are utilizing chefs.

Looking for the perfect way to wrap up the day? Unwind after a full day of professional development at the SNA of MA Reception and Exhibits! Relax with your peers and vendors while enjoying snacks and a free beverage (included in your $10 ticket price). This is networking at its best!

Register online by May 1st. We look forward to seeing you at the summit!

Dover-Sherborn Goes Back to Basics with Latin American Cuisine

JSI Chef wears gloves to hold the jalapeño pepper.

JSI Chef Brendan during the food demo

On December 5, 2018, Dover-Sherborn Regional High School participated in The John Stalker Institute’s Back to Basics Latin American Cuisine culinary Workshop to Go.During this 3-hour workshop, school nutrition staff learned about the ingredients and health benefits of foods from Latin America, and discovered healthy cooking techniques during a food demo. Nutrition staff also advanced their culinary skills by creating the following Latin American-inspired recipes.

  • Blackened Fish, Pulled Chicken and Pinto Taco Beans
  • Peppy Quinoa and Spanish Brown Rice
  • Crunchy Kale Slaw, Fresh Salsa, Mexicali Corn
  • Peach Salsa and Tropical Fruit Salad

The staff worked in groups to prepare these student-friendly recipes, and were given the opportunity to taste-test an authentic Build-Your-Own Latin American Street Taco.

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Cutting a lime used in the fresh salsa.

In tasting the recipe, the staff and the director had the opportunity to critique, discuss, and experience the Latin American Cuisine firsthand to ultimately decide which recipes to menu at their school. Through this workshop, staff have enhanced their culinary skills and built the confidence needed to prepare this new, popular menu option.

To learn more about the Back to Basics: Latin American Cuisine workshop, please visit our website to request a Workshop To Go or visit the JSI Resource Center page!

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.

 

Foxborough Public Schools Grow UP with Hydroponic Tower Gardens

Standing at a little over 5 feet tall and 2.5 feet wide, hydroponic tower gardens add a touch of green to Foxborough Public Schools and most importantly, grow fresh vegetables for students to eat year-round. As Janice Watt, the School Nutrition Director at Foxborough said, “It doesn’t get any more local than growing food right in our kitchens.”

Hydroponic Tower with growing lettuce and accompanying trellis to vertically grow cucumbers.

The gardens are spearheaded by Taylor Elementary School’s Kitchen Manager, Jane Rice, and operated by the entire Foxborough School nutrition team. Three of the schools; Ahern Middle School, Taylor Elementary School and Foxborough High School have towers in their schools’ kitchens and grow fresh lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes to serve in the lunchroom.

Initially, the vision for the school gardens was to have a greenhouse. However, the idea evolved into setting up hydroponic tower gardens to sustain a harvest throughout the school year. Jane manages check-ins with each of the three schools and starts the seeds indoors. She distributes the new seedlings to each of the schools after they harvest the fresh produce. She also trains the specific point person at each school to manage the towers which includes planting, harvesting and regular upkeep like checking the pH, feeding the plants and troubleshooting.

At Taylor Elementary School, the facilities department built a window for students to peek in to the kitchen and see what’s growing on the towers. Jane mentioned that special-education students often go to the window and find it to be very calming. Elementary School students do visit the kitchen and learn about the different parts of a plant, actually help plant new seeds and explore how the towers work.

Students can peer into the kitchen and see the hydroponic gardens while walking through the hallway.

During the summer months and school vacation weeks, Jane helps maintain the towers. Janice reiterated, “what school gardens need is a champion,” which is what they have found in Jane.

Janice also said some of the many benefits of using these towers are “…no dirt, no bugs and no weeding” which works well since they are stationed in the school kitchens and team members already have a lot on their plates throughout the day.

The towers aren’t a huge expense but are more of an upfront cost for schools. Towers are about $600 each and Foxborough Public Schools purchased several through grant funds.

Parents and the community have responded exceptionally well to the towers. Jane has also been recognized for her dedication and hard work for these tower gardens and was named one of Rainier Fruit’s Wholesome Heroes. When asked about her long-term vision, Jane said “If I had my way, we’d have a lot more. I would love to fill an entire empty classroom with the hydroponic towers.”

Jane Rice, school garden champion and Janice Watt, School Nutrition Director of Foxborough Public Schools in front of one of Taylor Elementary School’s hydroponic towers.

If you’re interested in expanding your school garden, whether it be a hydroponic tower 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.

JSI Brings Professional Communications to the SNA of MA Chapter Meetings

On Thursday, November 9th, 2017, Keefe Technical High School hosted the SNA of MA Chapter Meeting which featured the newly updated JSI workshop Professional Communications presented by Lynnea Gleason.

Professional communications was designed to strengthen existing skills, navigate through difficult topics, and discover ways to strengthen the communication lines of school nutrition programs.

Key learning objectives include:

  • Identifying effective communication skills for adults and children
  • Practice handling sensitive situations in the work setting
  • Discuss ways to overcome communication barriers

This workshop features many activities to get participants out of their seats and reflecting on these objectives to promote success within their daily operations. Most of our days are spent at work, so having enjoyable relationships and a mutual understanding of one another creates a positive environment and can make the day fly by! Such synergistic productivity not only benefits your fellow employees, but also the children who are getting fed.

Consistency is a key component in school meal programs to control food costs and meet meal requirements. One of the fun and interactive activities, the PB & J sandwich activity, that took place during the workshop showed how messages can be interpreted in many different ways. Even the instructions for making a simple PB & J sandwich require good written communication to properly convey the message the way you want it to be understood. The PB & J activity effectively reinforced the key learning objective and was a hit with the audience!

JSI instructor leads the PB & J activity.

To learn more about about professional communications, visit SNP: Effective Communication for a compilation of links provided in the JSI Resource Center.

2017 Massachusetts Team Up for School Nutrition Success

Written by Marissa Green, FSU Grad Nutrition Student and Jillian Bent, FSU Food and Nutrition Intern

School nutrition directors from across the Commonwealth gathered at Framingham State University on November 29th and November 30th for the Team Up for School Nutrition Success event, sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), and hosted by The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University.

Event organizers, participants and mentors that attended the 2017 Team Up for School Nutrition Success event.

The two-day agenda included panel discussions and breakout sessions that facilitated constructive dialogue between both mentors and participants on best practices for school nutrition programs. This unique learning experience encouraged school nutrition directors to share common challenges and solutions within their respective school nutrition programs, providing valuable networking opportunities throughout the event. Participants worked with mentors to discuss current pitfalls and establish SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) goals to make improvements in their school nutrition programs after the event.

Agenda for first day of the Team Up for School Nutrition Success Mentoring event.The first day of the event focused on

The first day of the event focused on financial management and increasing participation key learnings and the second day on menu planning.

Some key learnings from day one included:

  • Grab and go reimbursable school breakfasts are a great way to reach students that arrive late to school so they can also get the necessary nourishment to start their school day.
  • If a menu item isn’t selling, it’s important to revise and/or evaluate your menus, as needed.
  • Customer service is key for school nutrition programs. A smile or greeting can go a long way when you’re working with students.

The second day focused on menu planning and some key learnings included:

Agenda for the second day of Team Up for School Nutrition mentoring event.

  • Cycle menus serve as a great base when menu planning and can be flexible.
  • It’s the people, not the process who impact menu planning the most because people add their own twist on recipes. Staff awareness regarding the importance of recipe standardization is a key for success.
  • Find a “champion” in your school to help implement new programs and increase participation. It could be a student, a nurse, a gym teacher, etc.
  • Promote your program and get active within your community – for example, attend open houses to show parents what their children are eating at school.
  • Improve food quality by simply asking your team if they would eat the food your school is selling.

If you’re interested in learning more and finding additional resources check out Team Up for School Nutrition Success.