School nutrition professionals (and parents too!) employ every trick in the book to encourage children to eat their vegetables; but for many kids, veggies remain a tough sell.
Now, as schools are being asked to serve even larger servings of produce, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign is mobilizing an army of culinary professionals to give schools some fresh ideas on how to make healthy foods more enticing.
School nutrition professionals have partnered with the First Lady’s Chefs Move to Schools! initiative, which is allowing more schools to benefit from chefs’ expertise in recipe development, healthy preparation methods, culinary skills and more.
Chefs have already made tremendous contributions in school cafeterias. A number of school nutrition programs are managed by professionally trained chefs or have full time chefs in charge of menu planning. Others are partnering with chefs in the community on an array of nutrition education and menu improvement initiatives. For example:
Orange County Public Schools (Fla.), pictured above, has united with chefs from four national culinary organizations to develop healthier school menu items. Students, chefs and foodservice managers partnered to create kid-approved, nutritious foods like fish and vegetable tacos, taboule chicken salad and breakfast fruit roll ups made from melons, strawberries and pineapple, wrapped in rice paper. White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass (in white) participated in the district’s recipe showcase event.
Denver Public Schools has worked closely with numerous chef volunteers from local restaurants. As the school district has transitioned to cooking its meals from scratch, local chefs have helped train food service employees in baking and cooking skills. Chefs have also been active in the district’s school gardens, hosting cooking demonstrations utilizing foods grown by the students.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools, pictured above, has turned to award-winning local chefs to spice up their menus. A grilled chicken wrap, made with a curry flavored sauce, vegetables and brown rice, vegetable salad coleslaw; couscous with vegetables; Rosemary grilled chicken salad; and mojo marinated roasted chicken are among the new school recipes designed by the district’s culinary expert panel.
Holmen School District (Wis.) recently teamed up with a local chef on a cooking class for fourth and fifth graders. The program, which featured red cabbage, the “Harvest of the Month” vegetable, was part of the district’s Farm to School Program that promotes locally grown produce.
Chefs nationwide have been joining school teams to participate in the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge. At Frederick Douglass Elementary (Del.), a local chef joined the Nutrition Services staff, parents and students to create two delicious recipes that meet school nutrition standards: Roasted Apple & Butternut Squash Soup and Power-Packed Chicken Parmesan.
The School Nutrition Association, representing more than 50,000 school nutrition professionals nationwide, is working to share ideas like these with schools in communities where local chefs may not be available to volunteer. This summer, SNA will launch its Chef’s Table – a group of chefs who will host ongoing culinary development seminars for school nutrition professionals from every state. The sessions will teach cooking and menu enhancement techniques and provide new ideas for engaging kids and the community in healthy eating.
Now that sounds like a recipe for success!