31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: #MustHave Recipe Resources

There are many excellent resources for standardized school recipes – from USDA, NFSMI, state Team Nutrition Programs (ex., Michigan and Iowa), food companies (ex., Norpac Foods) and producer commodity groups (ex,. American Egg Board and The Mushroom Council). Remember, you do NOT have to reinvent the ‘wheel,’ you can always adapt recipes to fit your kitchen and your customers! In final six blogs in this series, I’m exploring a variety recipe sources for school meals. Today, I share two MUST-HAVES – from Oklahoma and Vermont.

The Oklahoma Farm to School Cookbook has a great name: Kidchen Expedition. It also has great recipes for serving locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables in schools. There are eight sections covering everything from Broccoli to Zucchini, along with a nice selection of dips and dressings. Two recipes are shown on this slide – more great names, Underground Candy (aka roasted root veggies) and Rainbow Salsa. The cookbook can be downloaded in large file – or section by section – and there are family-size recipes to send home with your students.

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By now I hope that every school nutrition program has an electronic – or hard – copy of Vermont FEED’s New School Cuisine: Nutritious and Seasonal Recipes for School Cooks by School Cooks. This is a very impressive first-ever effort by public school cooks to write a hands-on cookbook for their peers. It is written for school cooks, by school cooks and includes totally kid-tested recipes, featuring local, seasonal ingredients and farm to school resources. I have met several of the cooks who tested the recipes – and I have seen the recipes being served at many schools. This gorgeous Vermont Maple Apple French Toast Bake had just come out of the oven at Goddard Elementary in Worcester, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, I did not get to stay for brunch for lunch.

Vermont Maple Apple French Toast Bake

Vermont Maple Apple
French Toast Bake

Every school needs a copy of New School Cuisine: Nutritious and Seasonal Recipes for School Cooks by School Cooks on their computer or book shelf – the photos alone make it worth your while! Get yours today!

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31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Chef Robert is a #RealSchoolHero

The School Nutrition Foundation recently announced its 2015 School Nutrition Hero AwardsChef Robert Rusan from Richmond-Maplewood Heights School District in Maplewood, Missouri, is one of the honorees. Robert has been one of my heroes since I started School Meals That Rock in 2011. Very early in the life of our Facebook page, Chef Robert started sending in photos – of his immaculate kitchen, school garden produce and mouth-watering, house-made meals.

Chef Robert Rusan, Maplewood, Missouri (2011)

Chef Robert Rusan, Maplewood, Missouri (2011)

There are many reasons to honor Chef Robert Rusan. The two that really stand out to me are his ability to connect young people with their food – and his commitment to the freshest ingredients possible. This collage from Food Revolution Day 2014 illustrates both. Serving Asparagus Frittata in a high school would be awesome all by itself, but Robert went way beyond that: “Today MRH Teen Cuisine prepared fresh asparagus frittata. The asparagus are from the school garden at ECC and the eggs are from our own MRH chickens. I would like to give a special shout out to our Seed to Table Coordinator/teacher Chef Almut Marino who organized the day!

Asparagus Frittata, MRH Team Cuisine, Food Revolution 2014

Asparagus Frittata, MRH Teen Cuisine, Food Revolution 2014

It is very difficult to pick out one or two photos which really show the commitment of Chef Robert and his district to fresh food and student involvement. This collage and Robert’s own caption do a pretty good job: “Good growers + good food + good cooks = good students.” To get the full flavor of why Chef Robert Rusan is a 2015 SNF School Nutrition Hero, I recommend going to his Facebook page and scrolling through the photos. I guarantee that you will be impressed!!

Good growers + good food + good cooks = good students

Good growers + good food + good cooks = good students

 

31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Salad Bars Bring on the Produce

Schools clearly have a role in providing healthy foods to children. Our data suggest that the most vulnerable students are benefitting the most from school food.” A recently published study by Dr. Madeline Dalton, PhDThe Hood Center for Children and Families at Dartmouth College, confirms that school meals are important source of produce for low-income adolescents. According to her co-author Dr. Meghan Longacre, “Innovation in school food offerings for kids has emphasized increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and it’s working for low-income kids, but the evidence shows that a different strategy may be needed to have the same positive effect on high income kids.”

The innovation the authors refer to includes the requirements of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and changes in Meal Patterns to increase the quantity and variety of produce offerings at school. A quick look at three school salad bars from Southern states – an area not known for its fresh vegetable consumption – confirms that students are enjoying incredible produce options at school.

Lusher High School, New Orleans, Louisiana

Lusher High School, New Orleans, Louisiana

This gorgeous salad bar in a New Orleans Charter School includes everything from common celery to more exotic fresh mushrooms. These teens in this school can clearly enjoy a wide variety of flavors, textures and nutrition along with their lunch entrée. In many schools, teens are to take as many fruits and vegetables as they want. Middle School students in Carrollton, Georgia, can enjoy these colorful choices as part of the district’s Eat Healthy Eat Local Eat at Carrollton City Schools initiative.

Carrollton Middle School Salad Bar, Carrollton City Schools, Georgia

Carrollton Middle School Salad Bar, Carrollton City Schools, Georgia

Up in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the High School Salad Bar is truly impressive. Like her colleague Dr. Linnette Dodson in the Carrollton, Georgia, Harrisonburg’s School Nutrition Director Andrea Early works hard to source as many local items for the produce bar as possible.

Harrisonburg (VA) High School Salad Bar

Harrisonburg (VA) High School Salad Bar

Of course, the most important question is: Do teens really dig into these beautiful displays and increase their intake of fruits and vegetables? The answer, according to a January 2014 Evaluation of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Initiative is a resounding success! As reported by the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (GSCN) the successful outcomes of salad Bar Implementation included:

  • Increased students’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Most schools reported increased student participation in school lunch (57%)
  • School administrators, teachers, staff, and parents became more supportive of salad bars
  • A majority of schools reported purchasing more fruits and vegetables (78%)
  • Schools used fresh, pre-cut fruits and vegetables for salad bars (81%)

Additional results of the evaluation are outlined in this infographic from the report.

Evaluation of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Initiative

Evaluation of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Initiative

31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: From Sea to Tray in Less Than 36 Hours

While farm to school efforts are well established for fruits and vegetables in most states, other food groups are just now gearing up for local school delivery. We know about a few fledging efforts to bring local grains to school meal programs, like grits in Burke County, Georgia, and barley in Bethel School District, Eugene, Oregon. Thanks to FoodCorps Montana, Montana beef for Montana schools is becoming a reality – and other districts are sourcing local pork and poultry. Of course, fresh milk is a local product, moving from dairy farm to school carton in as little as two days.

Through innovative partnerships in a few coastal states, schools are now being able to serve fresh local fish to their customers. Students in Oyster River (NH) School District enjoyed that experience yesterday and Director Doris Demers was thrilled. The Acadian Redfish was caught by local fisherman on Wednesday morning, then 100 pounds were fileted and delivered to her schools on Wednesday afternoon by Tri-State Seafood.

Fresh Acadian Redfish Fillets, 2 oz. each

Fresh Acadian Redfish Fillets, 2 oz. each

By Thursday lunch, they were on the trays of lucky students throughout the district. This tray from Mast Way Elementary in Lee (NH), prepared and photographed by Manager Jess, includes brown rice and carrots, as well as fruit and veggies from the daily produce bar.

Fresh Acadian Redfish Lunch, Mast way Elementary, Lee, NH

Fresh Acadian Redfish Lunch, Mast way Elementary, Lee, NH

Each school cook had the option of preparing the fish ‘to taste’ in their kitchen, using a basic recipe with broccoli and cheese supplied by Director Demers. At Moharimet Elementary, Chef Michael used the broccoli as a stuffing and sprinkled the fillets with cheese before baking.

Stuffed Acadian Redfish Fillets, Moharimet Elementary School, New Hampshire

Stuffed Acadian Redfish Fillets, Moharimet Elementary School, New Hampshire

Chef’s Michael’s creation was very popular – 68 students chose the redfish hot lunch with similar side dishes to Mast Way. Teachers and families were also very positive about local fish lunches, which is a real boost to local fisherman. The Acadian Redfish, served in four New Hampshire district this week is a partnership with UNH Cooperative Extension.

Acadian Redfish School Lunch, Moharimet Elementary, New Hampshire

Acadian Redfish School Lunch, Moharimet Elementary, New Hampshire

At Oyster River High School, the fish meal was served on real plates because, according to Demers, it was “a very special day.” One student’s review of his redfish – “Excellent!

Acadian RedFish, Oyster River High School, Durham, New Hampshire

Acadian RedFish, Oyster River High School, Durham, New Hampshire

With this #RealSchoolFood lunch, Oyster River Child Nutrition joins districts in Alaska, Oregon and Massachusetts in the boat to school movement. They also live up up to their logo: HEALTHY. LOCAL. FRESH. 

Oyster River Child Nutrition, New Hampshire

Oyster River Child Nutrition, New Hampshire

31 days of #RealSchoolFood: Celebrating the Season

Yesterday’s focus on pizza made us think of Elf on the Shelf at school. What’s the connection you ask? It’s the dedicated and creative folks at Billerica (MA) Public Schools Nutrition Services, headed up by April M. Laskey, SNS, Director of School Nutrition and Dina Wiroll, Nutrition Services Site Coordinator. Yesterday Jimmy the Kitchen Elf, from the Kennedy Elementary School enjoyed pizza, milk, yummy salad and an apple with his reindeer friend. What a fun way to connect school meals to seasonal fun that students may also be doing at home.

Jimmy the Kitchen Elm enjoys a complete school lunch at Kennedy Elementary School, Billerica, Massachusetts

Jimmy the Kitchen Elm enjoys a complete school lunch at Kennedy Elementary School, Billerica, Massachusetts

Elves were showing up all over Billerica Nutrition Services this week. On Thursday, as part of Massachusetts Harvest of the Month and BPS Taste it Thursday even the Elf on the Shelf got his yummy roasted carrot ‘fries.’

Elves love Harvest of the Mouth Roasted Carrot Fries in Billerica, Massachusetts

Elves love Harvest of the Mouth Roasted Carrot Fries in Billerica, Massachusetts

Some of Billerica’s everyday ingredients look positively festive. This lovely Kale Garbanzo Bean Salad is simply dressed with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings. This would look fabulous on a holiday cafeteria line.

Kale Chickpea Salad

Kale Chickpea Salad

Last December, I had the great pleasure of visiting April and Dina – and eating lunch at Frederick J. Dutile Elementary School. I know it was a special occasion – and, I also know that they regularly make colorful appealing vegetable trays like this for their customers (who really dug into this one!).

Vegetable Snowman, Dutile Elementary, Billerica. Massachusetts

Vegetable Snowman, Dutile Elementary, Billerica. Massachusetts

Even the logo for Billerica Schools Nutrition Services is bright and festive! Be sure and follow this dedicate team of school nutrition professionals on Facebook. Happy holidays!

Billerica logo2

31 days of #RealSchoolFood: Pizza Please!

Kids love pizza – and today’s school pizza is a perfect combination: whole grain crusts (even hand tossed on occasion) + low-fat cheeses + nutrient-rich tomato sauces (sometimes house made) + a variety of toppings found in any self-respecting pizza shop. Some school pizza is so goof-for-you, it’s almost surprising that kids will eat it. But, that’s thing about pizza’s popularity – you can serve up lots of nutrition on a slice!

Here’s a small taste of school pizzas from across the US – for even more deliciousness, visit School Meals That Rock on Pinterest for our School Pizza That Rocks board. One of our long-time favorite pizzas is from Portland (OR) Public Schools Nutrition Services, where farm to school and Harvest of Month are both strong traditions. Roasted Oregon Asparagus Pizza is just a natural in the spring!

Roasted Asparagus Pizza, Portland Public Schools.

Roasted Asparagus Pizza, Portland Public Schools, Portland, Oregon

A flatbread crust is another popular way to do pizzas and many school cooks swear by the Rich’s Whole Grain Flatbreads. Director Jennifer Resier at the QV Cafe in Quaker Valley (PA) Schools adapted an online recipe for these gorgeous (and very popular) Rainbow Flatbread Veggie Pizzas. It’s hard to imagine a student (or adult) who would be attracted to these gems!

Rainbow Flatbread Veggie Pizza, QV Cafe, Quaker Valley Schools, Pennsylvania

Rainbow Flatbread Veggie Pizza, QV Cafe, Quaker Valley Schools, Pennsylvania

We couldn’t talk school pizza with mentioning Mast Way Elementary in Lee, New Hampshire’s Oyster River School District where Jess loves to make pizzas to match holidays, as well as available local veggies. Today was Pizza Friday with a choice of Chicken Fajita Pizza topped with grilled chicken, green/red peppers and spices or the Veggie Pizza (pictured below before baking). What lucky children to have Jess making pizza in the kitchen – and serving it with a fresh garden bar, fruit and local milk!

Veggie Pizza, Mast Way Elementary, Oyster River School District, Lee, New Hampshire

Veggie Pizza, Mast Way Elementary, Oyster River School District, Lee, New Hampshire

31 days of #RealSchoolFood: It’s All About Local

A recent viral post on Eat Local Grown suggested French school lunch put the American National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to shame. I don’t know enough about French school meals to comment, but I can tell you that the American meals pictured were from 2010-2012 and the school nutrition world has change dramatically. The French meals shown could have come from any one of hundreds of schools across America. Why I am so sure that NSLP meals are nutritious, delicious and increasingly locally grown? Because that’s exactly what I document every day on School Meals That Rock – and I have thousands of photos on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to prove it.

Thanks to major school nutrition movements including the National Farm to School Network, the numerous state/community farm to school coalitions, U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School resources and hundreds FoodCorps Service Members LOCAL SCHOOL LUNCH IS IN! And, we are talking real local, like the 1100 pounds of local sweet potatoes delivered by farmer Pete Jackson to Burke County Schools Farm to School Program. In his very rural Georgia county with one of the highest child poverty rates in the US, Director Donna Martin is growing the local economy by serving local, often organic foods including local grits ground the old-fashioned way.

Burke County

Up in Big Sky country, Montana Food Corps service member have helped to change school meals – and entire community food systems. The Ennis Farm to School initiative has created are now schools gardens, a greenhouse for winter greens and Montana Beef Stroganoff for Montana students. Kids are making and eating Beet and Carrot Patties, as well as the kale and kohlrabi grown on schools grounds. In Kalispell Public Schools director Jennifer Montague and her staff turned local squash into a Lentil-Squash Hummus snack. 

Lentil-Sqaush Hummus, Kalispell, Montana, Public Schools

Lentil-Sqaush Hummus, Kalispell, Montana, Public Schools

Out in Eugene, Oregon, local is an everything thing on student trays. On November 7, 2014, Director Jennie Kolpak posted this photo for Bethel Nutrition Services: “Great lunch today at Malabon Elementary featuring an abundance of Oregon foods, including Vegetarian Chil with Truitt Family beans and Bob’s Red Mill bulgar, homemade Honey Cornbread, our Harvest of the Month (Oregon grown Comice Pears), local roasted Pumpkin Seeds, local milk and a variety of fresh veggies.” I would put this lovely lunch head-to-head with any fancy French school lunch photo.

Local Oregon Lunch at Marabon Elementary, Bethel School District, Eugene, Oregon

Local Oregon Lunch at Malabon Elementary, Bethel School District, Eugene, Oregon

And this is just a tiny sample – tomorrow we’ll feature some of the programs that received funding in the latest round of USDA Farm to School grants. On Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $5 million in grants for 82 projects spanning 42 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s all about local #RealSchoolFood across America. It’s time to stop bashing school meals and help support Farm to School in YOUR district!