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.

News Roundup

On April 29, National Honor Society students at Framingham High alongside Food Service Director Brendan Ryan, teachers and families prepared the Saxonville school garden. This is the eighth year of the garden and last year the harvest helped make 1,000 gallons of tomato sauce and 10 gallons of basil sauce to feed 9,000 students across the district.

Congratulations to Brockton Public School as a recipient of the 2017 Turnip the Beet Awards! USDA awards annual Turnip the Beet awards to honor schools doing incredible work to offer nutritious and appealing summer meals to children and in turn, help meet the needs of the local community. If you’re interested in nominating a school for the 2018 awards, information will be posted later this year.

At Edison K-8 in Brighton, MA some students receive weekly Boost Bags on Fridays. These kits include several food items so students experiencing food insecurity first-hand can have proper nourishment through the weekend. Teachers see first-hand how homelessness and hunger impact students in the classroom and see the positive impact this program has on their student body.

Third, fourth and fifth graders from Whitin Elementary School went on a field trip to Whittier Farms in Sutton, MA accompanied by a very special guest; professional football player Derek Rivers of the New England Patriots. This trip was awarded to students after winning the Fuel Up to Play 60 Back to School Challenge. Students learned how the milk they drink is produced to provide great nutritional value and about the everyday responsibilities of a dairy farmer.

News Roundup

  • Dover Sherborn made the news after hosting JSI’s first-ever Live Setting Training on April 5th. The school served a Mediterranean-themed “Make Your Own Pita Pocket” lunch alongside JSI’s Professional Chef Brendan Gallagher. This training incorporated the lessons, flavors and recipes from the “Back to Basics: Mediterranean Flavors Workshop to Go” and featured them live for students to enjoy in the lunchroom.
  • Dedham Schools just received a valuable grant to expand their school breakfast program. This grant, which was from Amazon for $7,500, was used to purchase a breakfast and milk cart to serve breakfast in schools that do not have a cafeteria. With this new equipment, breakfast can be delivered to students in the classroom so they aren’t hungry in the morning and can start their day on the right foot.
  • To celebrate National Nutrition Month, Medway Middle School hosted a “grain-sampling” event for students to discover different grains. The school nutrition team also created lunch dishes featuring these items so students can see how these grains can be incorporated in meals and try then in their lunches. All recipes were shared with the parents after the event.
  • On April 2nd, Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang joined the official launch of  The “My Way Café” program at Bradley Elementary school in East Boston. This program was piloted for the past year and it allows schools with in-service kitchens to prepare healthy meals for other Boston schools that do not have kitchens to increase school lunch offerings throughout the city.

Dover Sherborn Bring Mediterranean Flavors to the Lunchroom

A lunch tray from the Live-Setting Culinary Training at Dover Sherborn Regional Middle and High School filled with a pita pocket, hummus, melon mint salad, mujaddara, tzatziki and other Mediterranean add-ons.

On April 5th, students at Dover Sherborn Regional Middle and High School loaded up their trays with tabbouleh, hummus, shawarma and more as part of a “Build Your Own Pita Pocket” lunch. This special lunch was created through JSI’s first ever Live-Setting Culinary Training, which brings the “Back to Basics: Mediterranean Flavors Workshop to Go” to life. With the help of JSI’s Chef Brendan Gallagher and the phenomenal school nutrition team at Dover Sherborn, the schools were able to take the concepts and Mediterranean recipes from the Workshop to Go and actually prepare them live for all students, across all four lunch periods.

The schools prepared a robust menu packed with so many tastes of the Mediterranean. The menu included chicken shawarma or hummus, Mujaddara (lentils and rice), melon mint salad and the add-ons were baba ganoush, tzatziki, tabbouleh and chopped lettuce, tomato and onion. Although these menu items were new to many students, remarks of “Can we do this more often?” and “Can we have this everyday?” could be heard among all grade levels navigating down the Mediterranean section of the tray line. At the end of the day, the school sold 250 of the Mediterranean lunches out of the typical daily 600 lunches.

Norah, the dietitian at Dover-Sherborn Regional Middle & School preparing samples of tzatziki for the students to try.

Janelle Madden, the Food Service Director at Dover Sherborn Public Schools said, “This was absolutely, no doubt a perfect match for our program. We’re always looking for ideas to make food from scratch.” If there were any leftovers once the lunch periods were over, the team was going to repurpose items like the hummus for the power pack lunches the following day.

To attract students to the Mediterranean menu items, the school posted signage and white boards in front of the doors leading to the kitchen. They also loaded up sample trays of the baba ganoush and tzatziki sauce to have students try the flavors before deciding on their meal choices.

Signage in the lunchroom to promote the Mediterranean menu options for lunch.

The Dover-Sherborn Assistant Cook Kim said, “Kids went in to today with an open mind. If kids have new ideas, we want them to bring them to the table. We’re willing to try them!”

Chef Brendan Gallagher said, “It’s exciting to see the workshop in action with the students and to also hear great feedback from them, that’s even better.” He also shared that this menu, “… brings new energy and excitement to the students and it’s also helpful for the staff to realize kids are more adventurous than they think with food.”

If you want your school to participate in this innovative culinary training, please submit an online request. Completion of the Back to Basics: Mediterranean Flavors workshop is required to host the Live-Setting Culinary Training. A professional development day is not needed because the same Mediterranean recipes are prepared and served in the lunchroom in real-time alongside a JSI chef.

Mediterranean add-ons for the “Build a Pita Pocket” lunch

Sneak Peek into Day Two of the 2018 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs

 

The excitement from Day 1 of the 2018 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit will flow right into Day 2, with a must-see presentation on “Branding Your Program Like a Pro,” in-depth breakout sessions and a recognition ceremony for school nutrition professionals and programs from across Massachusetts.

Day Two begins at 8:00a.m. with a welcome from the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

At 8:30 a.m. we are honored to have Dayle Hayes, MS, RD, President of Nutrition for the Future, Inc. lead a presentation on “Branding Your Program Like a Pro!” She will explore how branding can help meet customer needs with a comprehensive approach to excellence. Dayle will share creative ways to include nutrition employees in marketing and promotion; to engage students, school staff, and community leaders; and to tell school nutrition success stories to all audiences.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD, President of Nutrition for the Future, Inc.

Dayle will also be leading the “Engaging Your Customers” track on May 31st for “Growing Your Nutrition Brand.” Dive deeper with Dayle in both the morning and afternoon sessions to build a strong brand for your school nutrition program. Learn how to use branding to enhance the perception of school meals throughout your community and increase participation for all school meals.

In the “Expanding School Breakfast” track, you can join the “Thinking Outside the Cafeteria Tray” session and discover alternative School Breakfast Program service models designed to overcome barriers to participation. After that, join the “Team Up: Breaking Breakfast Barriers” panel including School Nutrition Directors and Denise Courtney, MS, RD, the Nutrition Education and School Wellness Training Coordinator for ESE Team Up. Through this session, discover new ways to promote the School Breakfast Program.

For the second day of the “Maximizing Community Support” track, the morning and afternoon sessions will focus on “Game On: Six Steps to Building a Healthier School.” Learn how to work more effectively to improve your school wellness policy and practices. Assess your school environment using the AFHK-modified CDC School Health Index and create an action plan for your school’s wellness policy initiatives.

In the afternoon, Robert Leshin, Director for the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs will host a “News You Can Use” session full of updates and essential news for Massachusetts school nutrition programs.

Each day of the Summit provides 5½ continuing education hours to meet USDA Professional Standards training needs. Don’t forget to register by May 11th and secure your spot for the 2018 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit.  

The two-day conference is sponsored by the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition.

Sneak Peek into Day One of the 2018 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit

What are you doing May 30th and May 31st? Mark your calendars and spend both days with us at the 2018 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit. Register by May 11th for the two-day summit and join school nutrition professionals from across the Commonwealth at the Four Points by Sheraton in Norwood, MA to promote healthy students and healthy school nutrition programs. The schedule for Day One includes a keynote speaker you won’t want to miss, an insightful panel about enhancing or starting a School Breakfast Program moderated by the President of Project Bread, networking and educational opportunities and impactful breakout sessions throughout the morning and afternoon.

Schedule at a glance for Day One of the 2018 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit

Be sure to register for the SNA of MA Reception immediately following the Summit on May 30th from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Relax with your peers and vendors while enjoying light snacks and a free beverage (included with your $10 registration cost) in the ballroom of the Four Points by Sheraton. Participate in a scavenger hunt designed to help you learn about available products and services. Get fun facts about your vendors and school nutrition. This is networking at its best!

Day One begins at 8:00a.m. with a warm welcome from Robert Leshin, MPA Director of the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs and Karen McGrail, MEd, RDN, LDN, Director of The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition.

We’re honored to have Dr. Marlene Schwartz, Director for the Rudd Center for Obesity & Food Policy from the University of Connecticut as the morning keynote speaker. With almost three decades of experience researching nutrition and physical activity policies in schools and preschools throughout Connecticut, Dr. Schwartz will present on, “School Wellness: National Trends, Local Solutions.” Dr. Schwartz will review what actually gets implemented in School Wellness programs, share the effect of food marketing on children, and detail the relationship between school breakfast consumption and obesity. Walk away with the evidence to promote wellness initiatives in your district.

In the afternoon, gather for a panel with school community members and moderator Erin McAleer, President at Project Bread to discuss “Building a Strong Breakfast Coalition.” Uncover how to champion district and local support to grow a successful School Breakfast Program. Each panel member will highlight the impact of their School Breakfast programs on students and share what has worked well for their schools.

School nutrition directors are encouraged to register managers for the “Engaging Your Customers” Learning Track. In the morning, managers can participate in the “Exceptional Customer Service” session to improve customer service skills using concepts from The Guest: Everything You Already Knew About Great Customer Service.  In the afternoon, managers can join the “Empowering Staff to Improve the Customer Experience” session to explore the difference between customer service and customer experience along with the potential issues that may be impacting your program.

Cover of the 2018 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit brochure.

Each day of the Summit provides 5½ continuing education hours to meet USDA Professional Standards training needs. Don’t forget to register by May 11th.  Today is the perfect day to sign-up and cross that off your to-do list!

The two-day conference is sponsored by the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition.

Exploring the Culinary Versatility of Beans in Schools

Chef Janyl from JSI leading the Bean-a-licious Culinary Demo

Across the country, beans are taking center of the plate on menus, including school menus. To support this popularity, JSI created the Bean-a-licious Culinary Demo conducted by Chef Janyl at SNA of Massachusetts Chapter Meetings. In March, Chef Janyl led the culinary demo at King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham, MA, where school nutrition professionals tasted several delicious bean recipes and discovered first-hand the versatility of beans. Participants also learned how beans can add nutritional value, great flavors and texture to reimbursable school lunches.                                                                            During her presentation, Chef Janyl shared more about the nutritional and environmental benefits of cooking with beans. They are not only packed with nutrients such as fiber but beans are easy to incorporate in a variety of dishes, including recipes from different ethnic cuisines. Beans can serve as either a vegetable or meat alternate for reimbursable school lunches, are inexpensive and a sustainable food. Beans are beneficial to the environment because they can lower greenhouse gases and do not require a ton of water to grow.

Bean dips that were sampled at the March SNA of MA Chapter Meeting at King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham after the Bean-a-licious Culinary Demo hosted by JSI.

Chef Janyl demonstrated how to make different bean recipes like a Green Goddess Hummus and shared several tips on how to maximize this ingredient in a school kitchen. Some tips included:

  • Enhancing the vibrancy of bean dishes with color and different garnishes will make these dishes more eye appealing and exciting for students.
  • You can turn one bean dip dish into another one later in the week by adding additional ingredients like spinach to change up the look and feel of the dish without wasting food.

After the Culinary Demo, attendees sampled six different bean recipes including Barbecue Bean Dip and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. Participants walked away with all the recipes and a newfound appreciation for this versatile ingredient. JSI also hosted its first Facebook Live event during the chapter meeting so all JSI Facebook fans could view the demo at home or at school. The video is on the JSI Facebook page, so if you missed it live you can watch the whole demo here.

To find the recipes that were sampled during the Bean-a-licious Culinary Demo, please visit the JSI Resource Center. 

Preview of the JSI Facebook Live video capturing Chef Janyl presenting the Bean-a-licious Culinary Demo.

Enroll in the 2018 Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition Program

Take the next step in your school nutrition career today and sign-up for the Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition Program this fall. To give you an insider’s perspective, we are sharing how current program participants perceive the program and how the coursework has impacted their careers as school nutrition professionals. Thirty-seven school nutrition professionals have already completed the highly acclaimed program to date. Our graduates give the program high marks, not only for the impactful coursework, but for the expertise and flexibility provided by the faculty, the networking opportunities with fellow students and the skills that are acquired and easily applied in their current school nutrition role.

When considering your career succession, you will be interested to know that this program is the state-recognized certification identified in the hiring standards for school nutrition directors as outlined in section 306 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The certificate includes five undergraduate courses offered through Framingham State University over five semesters in topics designed to increase the competencies, knowledge and skills and advance careers for directors and senior management in school nutrition programs. Classes focus on important topics for school nutrition professionals which include:

See what individuals currently enrolled in the Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition program have to say about their experience:

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If you’re interested in applying for the 2018 Certificate of Excellence in School Nutrition program, please complete the no-cost online application no later than August 1st.  What are you waiting for? Take YOUR school nutrition career to the next level!

 

News Roundup

  • Director of School Nutrition, April Laskey, SNS of Billerica Public Schools received national recognition as one of five 2018 School Nutrition Heroes by the School Nutrition Foundation. This well-deserved award was given to April for her 12 years of serving healthy school meals to Billerica students and her incredible support and hard-work in both her school district and community.
  • Mill City Grows’ (MCG) supports local farms and Lowell Families through the “Farm to Table Family Cooking Classes” by organizing workshops for 8-10 families to learn how to prepare fresh, seasonal, affordable meals together. MCG partners with Lowell Public School District’s Food and Nutrition Services and afterschool programs to host these workshops throughout the city.
  • Bellingham schools are launching a food pantry program to minimize hunger throughout the town. With grant assistance from the Hockomock Area YMCA, this program will provide students with weekly food items to increase students’ access to healthy food.
  • Jane Rice, the kitchen manager at Taylor Elementary School in Foxborough, MA was recognized as a  “Wholesome Hero” by Rainier Fruit for her incredible work managing the school’s tower gardens. With the limited New England growing season, these hydroponic vertical gardens provide fresh vegetables like cucumbers and lettuce for students year-round.

Strengthen Your Management Skills this August at the Management Institute

Calling all managers! Take your management skills to the next level at the Management Institute this August 14, 15 and 16 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Devens Common Center.  This three-day program is designed specifically for the professional development needs of school nutrition managers to strengthen both leadership and management skills.

Over three days of interactive learning, participants dive into highly relevant topics like leadership, financial management, personnel management, communication, marketing, merchandising, and nutrition. Learn to leverage leadership and management skills to create a positive culture in the lunchroom, market food to students and develop strong communication skills to enhance relationships both inside and outside of their teams.

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Here is some of the feedback we received from participants at last year’s Management Institute.

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The cost to attend the Management Institute is $250 per person which covers all workshops, materials along with continental breakfast and lunch each day.

If you’re a manager or want your managers to attend the Management Institute, please register online by July 31, 2018.  Please submit one registration form for each individual registering.