Students Compete in Iron Chef Jr. Event at Milton Public Schools

On November 3, 2014 twenty-four fifth grade students teamed up for the second annual Iron Chef Jr. competition hosted by the Milton Public School Food Services. Each team put their heads together to prepare a meal using a “secret basket” of ingredients. This year, the mystery ingredients were frozen spinach, frozen carrot coins, boneless chicken thigh meat and black beans. Teams also had a choice of whole grains, including rice, tortillas, dough balls, ravioli, and pasta. To assist the students in the kitchen, five local chefs were recruited for the event: Tony Derienzo from Abby Park, Esteban Gallego from Ester Restaurant, Lauren Barone from Seasoned Palette Catering, Tim Doherty from the Blue Hills Grille and Maureen Buckley from Whole Foods in Dedham. After reviewing the rules and revealing the mystery ingredients, teams quickly began preparing their unique dishes.


Each teams’ dish was scored by a panel of “celebrity judges,” including Katie Millett, Executive Director of Nutrition, Health and Safety at the MA Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mary Gormley, Superintendent of Milton Schools, John Grant, Fire Chief of Milton, Holly Concannon, Principal of Collicot School in Milton, Jonathan Redden, Principal of Cunningham School in Milton, and a fellow grade five student.

After the judges’ scoring, there was a tie for first place. The tie was between the Blue Hill’s Grille team with a chicken, bean, carrot burrito, a spinach tart, and a salad and the Whole Food’s team with a spinach and chicken pasta dish and a carrot, tomato and bean salad.

ironchef2This competition aims to expose Milton students to a variety of new, nutritious foods through a unique culinary experience. Students also learn about the new regulations introduced through the National School Lunch Program.  This competition encourages participants to foster their creativity and build skills to prepare healthy dishes at home. Everyone is a winner in the end!

For more information about the amazing work done by Milton Public School Food Services, check out this 2014 slide show. To get your child involved in next year’s Iron Chef Jr. event, contact Jackie Morgan, Director of Food Services at Milton Public Schools @

~ Blog written by: Eliana Lakritz, B.S., FSU Graduate Food and Nutrition Student

Moving Up! at the SNA of Massachusetts’ 63rd Annual Fall Conference

The School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts held their 63rd Annual Fall Conference and Show, Be Inspired!, this past week. This conference included discussions on creating opportunities in school nutrition, lunch lady heroes, and a look at the most recent updates on the federal and state regulations. View the SNA of Mass. 63rd Conference brochure here.

One of the panels at the conference, Moving Up!, featured inspiring success stories from school nutrition leaders who worked their way up in school foodservice. For example, Allison Johnson originally held a B.S. in Biology from Northeastern University. She later became a part-time manager for a cafe on Cape Cod while in school, obtained an M.Ed. in Nutrition Education, and worked in several public school foodservice settings up to her current position as Foodservice Director for Foxborough Public Schools.

Meanwhile, Nadine Doucette began her career as a substitute cafeteria worker in 2000, later becoming a full-time employee, a baker/manager’s assistant, and finally to her present position as Food Service Manager for the Pembroke Public Schools.

Janelle Madden has worked for 22 years in the private foodservice setting. Madden has also worked as a cafeteria worker, pizza maker, and manager in the Needham Public School system, and is now the Food and Nutrition Service Director for the Dover-Sherborn Public School District.

Moving Up! at SNA of Mass. Conference

The Moving Up! panel. Pictured from left to right: Allison Johnson (Foxborough), Nadine Doucette (Pembroke), Janelle Madden (Dover-Sherborn), Dina Wiroll (Billerica), Catherine Donovan (Hamilton-Wenham), and Karen McGrail (JSI)

Dina Wiroll‘s introduction into school lunch occurred with a phone call to the Billerica Public Schools Nutrition Services Director, regarding her type 1 diabetic son. This eventually led her to transition from private nutrition consulting, to being the Nutrition Services Site Coordinator for the Billerica Public School System.

Finally, Catherine Donovan first earned a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Administration at the University of Massachusetts. Donovan is currently working towards a Master’s in Education Concentration in Nutrition Education at Framingham State University, and is serving her 14th year as Director of Food Services for the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District.

Professional development builds skills and advances knowledge, often allowing for career advancement. Soon, minimum professional development requirements will be established for school nutrition professionals, as outlined in the USDA’s proposed professional standards. In the Moving Up! discussion, Karen McGrail from the John C. Stalker Institute (JSI) shared the many professional development opportunities available to Massachusetts school nutrition professionals:

Professional Development for Directors

Professional Development for Managers

Professional Development for School Nutrition Staff

In addition, the JSI Resource Center provides a variety of resources for school nutrition professionals, such as nutrition training, school nutrition regulations and standards, and more.

Certificate in Excellence Tech Project Leads to an Innovative Approach to Nutrition Education

Brendan Gallagher, head chef at Hillside School in Marlborough, MA.

Brendan Gallagher, head chef at Hillside School in Marlborough, MA.

Brendan Gallagher, head chef at Hillside School in Marlborough, is incorporating innovative strategies into his lunch program to provide nutrition education and engage students. Gallagher is a former student in the Computer Application in School Food Services course part of the Certificate in Excellence program offered by JSI. A technology project is conducted in the course emphasizing one of the National Food Service Management Institute’s core competencies of maximizing the use of computer technology in school food service. Students’ selected a type of technology and identified how it would be applied in their school lunch program. Gallagher took the project one step further implementing his selected technology, digital signage, into his lunch program.The program has been running for the past two years having a remarkable impact on the students. Gallagher has seen an increase in what he refers to as the students’ food IQ. The students are now initiating conversation with the chefs and want to know more about the food they are eating. Gallagher runs fun, humorous and visually appealing food and nutrition messages via digital signage twice a week during the lunch period on flat screen televisions displayed throughout the dining hall. The show is on a continuous loop repeating four to five times which allows for repeated exposure emphasizing the material.

The slide show is prepared ahead of time using slide decks from Nutrislice. Gallagher is able to personalize his show incorporating facts for foods on the menu for the day. He also tailors the show to the students emphasizing humor including a joke of the day and games, such as the broccoli shuffle. Other slides include quotes and facts related to nutrition, and comparing and contrasting of fast food items, which really get the students talking according to Gallagher.

JSI staff and interns had the opportunity to visit the Hillside School and see first hand the digital signage in action. Watch the video below created by FSU Communications Arts Intern Aaryn Chandler of the visit.

Hillside is a private all boys school that serves about 150 students for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gallagher is passionate about serving students healthy food items and educating them on the importance of healthy food choices to their health.

Certificate-of-Excellence-JSI will be accepting new students into the Certificate of Excellence program for the course, Management of Child Nutrition Programs, starting in the fall. There is a pre-registration form on the JSI web site that those interested should complete.  This program is a unique opportunity to prepare school nutrition professionals for the requirements outlined in USDA’s proposed professional standards and the projects, as seen here, offer real world applications.

Success Story: Milton Public Schools

This Success Story was submitted by Jacqueline Morgan, Director of Food Services in Milton, MA. You can also share your Success Stories here!

Whole Foods Market staff members recently visited Milton High School and Pierce Middle School as part of a collaboration between Whole Foods and the Milton Public Schools.

This partnership formed two years ago when Michelle Obama developed the “Let’s Move” Campaign. At that time our Food Service Director, Jackie Morgan, applied for a grant for a salad bar from Whole Foods. The Dedham store awarded the Pierce Middle School a $3,000 salad bar that the Food Service Department turned into a fruit and veggie cart so that students could take more fruits and veggies with their lunches.

Since then, Whole Foods staff members, including Maureen Buckley, Healthy Eating Specialist in Dedham; Alex Tillotson, Culinary Demo Specialist in Dedham; Lisa Caldwell, Healthy Eating Specialist in Wellesley; and Samantha Gafford, Customer Service Supervisor in Wellesley, have been in Pierce Middle School working with our health teacher, Chris Maine. They also have been in each of his classrooms teaching nutrition lessons.

FS team in Milton Chef in Milton Milton and Whole Foods

Recently, the team has been working with the High School Food Service team on the five half-days. Whole Foods staff members brought in a chef and and taught the Food Service staff new and creative food dishes, focusing on our newly-mandated offerings by USDA, which include dark leafy greens, orange vegetables and beans.

We are grateful to the folks at Whole Foods who have helped to make this collaboration extremely productive. I am also grateful to our Food Service staff whom have made this such a huge success.


Share Your School Nutrition Success Stories with JSI!

Hands ApplaudingThe 2012-2013 school year is one of change for Massachusetts school nutrition professionals, who are working hard to meet updated federal and state school food regulations.

Many schools across the Commonwealth are using innovative strategies to promote these healthy changes. Success stories, whether big or small can be an inspiration to us all, not to mention, spark new ideas!

Do you have creative new offerings that boost vegetable, legume, or whole-grain servings? How are you promoting new menu items to students and school staff? Have you designed novel ways to promote your re-vamped school nutrition program? JSI wants to give you kudos right here on our blog, and tell your story to inspire other school nutrition professionals in Massachusetts!

Just click here and fill out a simple form to identify yourself and your school or district, and to share your success story. Tell us how school foodservice staff, teachers, administrators or students are working to promote healthier eating habits this year. We’ll help promote your school or district here on the JSI blog!