School nutrition professionals across the country are cooking up creative ways to reduce added sodium and sugar in school meals and get kids excited about trying more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In many schools, chefs are helping to mastermind these healthy changes, utilizing their culinary knowledge to create tasty, nutritious dishes that please the pickiest young eaters.
Although chefs have long played an important role in school cafeterias, more schools are welcoming chefs into their kitchens since First Lady Michelle Obama launched her Chefs Move to Schools! initiative last year. Chefs are partnering with school nutrition professionals on culinary training sessions and nutrition education programs. Some school foodservice programs are even managed by professionally trained chefs, who oversee all operations.
Take a look at how one chef is making a difference in Berlin Public Schools, Connecticut:
Chefs bring their tricks-of-the-trade to schools, like knowing which herbs can season a dish with less salt and how to bake whole wheat bread that is light and tasty. In Hillsborough County Public Schools (FL) District Chef Ben Guggenmos is not only helping spice up school menus – he’s also teaching kids ways to eat healthier at home. During National School Lunch Week (October 10-14, 2011), Chef Ben hosted Healthy Recipe Demonstrations, showing students how to create tasty treats like “Dessert Fruit Pizza” with nutritious ingredients including fresh blueberries and strawberries, low-fat cream cheese and whole grain English Muffins.
Chef Paul Penny, a Chefs Move to Schools! participant, worked with Plymouth-Canton Community Schools (Michigan) to create school lunch specials like Sweet Potatoes and Apples and Turkey Cherry Chili, loaded with Michigan cherries, red beans and low-fat ground turkey. Chef Paul even visited with students, encouraging them to taste test these healthy dishes.
As we all seek new ways to promote healthier lifestyles for our children, chefs are playing a critical role in schools and restaurants by sharing their culinary skills, tasty recipes and healthy ideas.