Chefs Bring Whole Grains to School
School bells are pealing, moms and dads are cheering – kids are heading back to school. It’s that wonderful time of year when we pack up our children, send them out of the house and into the classroom. There they will receive education, inspiration and LUNCH!
For generations, school cafeteria staff have been picked on – sometimes rightfully so – for plates of reheated bland foods passed across counters to eye-rolling, face-making children. How did we get to this place, where our children arrive at school to broaden their minds, but then the learning stops at the cafeteria door? The teaching opportunity can carry through to the lunchroom where kids can learn that good nutrition can in fact be delicious.
The USDA recommended that schools make half of their grains whole. Great news, but simply dictating amounts is not enough, especially since this recommendation has not yet been translated into any requirements. Teachers, administration and cafeteria workers need support through funding, tools and training for change to be successful. Knowing how much to serve of whole grains is the first piece of the puzzle; the second piece is figuring out how to prepare them.
First Lady Michelle Obama introduced the "Chefs Move to Schools" project following her success with the “Let’s Move” campaign, to address this very issue. This latest program, now run by the USDA, aims to improve school lunch programs by connecting chefs with schools to develop healthy lunches that taste good and that kids will enjoy.
Sure, switching from white bread to whole grain bread is a first step, but having school food service staff work closely with a chef opens doors to creativity. Together, they can come up with fun and appealing ways to get fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains onto the lunch plates.
WGC Board of Advisors Chairman Mike Holleman, a professional chef partnered with a Minnesota school, told us, “The acceptance by both students and kitchen staff has been nothing short of amazing.” And he’s right. Students at one Chicago school enrolled in the program rave, “It feels like we are eating food from a restaurant" and another, “…it makes you feel much better and more alert after having lunch or breakfast." It’s clearly a win for all! The food service staff learns new skills, the chefs get to share their expertise, and both make a difference in the community.
Since the “Chefs Move to Schools” program launched in July 2010, 722 matches were made between a chef and a school across the country. While this is a big step in the right direction, we think it would be even better if every school and chef joined forces to bring delicious and nutritious meals to students.
If you are a school looking for a chef, click here.
If you are a chef interested in helping a school, click here.
The Whole Grains Council has also made materials available for teachers and school administrators to help teach staff and students about whole grains. (Karen)