–by Svetla Tomanova
During a two-day workshop, nearly 120 cafeteria staff members recently learned about changes in the school nutrition federal programs, refreshed their knowledge on kitchen safety, received updates on menus and much more.
They also taste-tested some scratch items on this year’s menu and learned about kitchen equipment during summer training at Ocean Lakes High School.
“Empowering our food-services workers as educators and respected members of the school staff is one of our goals as we continue to roll out our scratch-cooking program,” said Sustainability Officer Tim Cole.
“They are eager to see all students back in the cafeterias,” Harrison said.
The program started on a small scale in 2016 after the VBCPS Sustainability Leadership Summit.
“Only Old Donation School was in the pilot program, because it was the newest school and we could incorporate the kitchen equipment we needed to return to scratch cooking,” Cole said.
Driven by the pilot’s success, the goal was set – grow the program and retrofit all 86 schools for scratch-cooking ready by 2024.
Amid the flurry of activities at the workshop, participants taste-tested 10 lunch items featuring their newly acquired skills. They explored new dishes, such as Havana chicken nachos, chicken enchilada, pulled pork Frito nachos, sweet potato soufflé and Mexicali corn salsa. Breakfast items such as apples, peaches and oats were on the menu as well.
Locally grown produce is a key ingredient in preparing meals from scratch, so Harrison and her staff will use products from local farms and gradually increase local procurement by 30% over 2009 levels, Harrison said.
At the end of the workshop, everybody’s enthusiasm was palpable.
“We are creating a culture that values sustainability and supports sustainable practices at every level,” Cole said. “The food that we provide for students reflects that commitment. Let’s lead by example and execute this program well.”
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