Dec 4, 2018

Out With the Old Salad Bar, In With the New!

 

Marblehead Community Charter Public School (MCCPS) has been serving children in the Boston area for about 24 years, and has always had a salad bar. So what makes their participation in the Salad Bars to Schools program so special?

District Size: 230 students

Number of Schools in District: 1

Free/Reduced Rate: less than 10%

District Average Daily Participation: 48%

Not all salad bars are created equal, and time truly ages them. Up until last summer, MCPCS was not part of the SB2S program, but they did have their own salad bar. When Marblehead received their new salad bar from SB2S last summer, Food Service Director and Chef Laura Wood recalls that there was a seventh grade summer camp taking place at the school.

“The kids who were at school for the camp just stared at the new salad bar, admiring it,” Chef Wood says. “No one realized how old the previous bar was until we got the new one from SB2S.” She describes their old salad bar as outdated and unusable.

Chef Laura Wood has been working at Marblehead as the Food Service Director for 10 years, and her passion for fueling students is strong. Although her official title is Food Service Director, she also works as a chef, helping cook every day at the school. Chef Wood holds a culinary degree with a fine dining background, which explains why she prefers to run her kitchen more like a restaurant than a cafeteria and places emphasis on healthy choices on and off the salad bar.

Chef Wood prides herself on the strong longevity of her school food staff. She hires employees who express a passion for cooking or who have cooking experience, and she feels that this has benefited the day-to-day operations of the salad bar. They call themselves “Not Your Average Lunch Ladies.” Between Chef Wood and her kitchen manager, she feels that there are understood expectations that their staff abide by, like keeping the kitchen a low waste space. One way they keep their kitchen a low waste space is by encouraging students to take only as much as they will eat from the salad bar.

At MCCPS, participation at the salad bar is very popular among students and within the local community. Parents are always invited to visit for lunch, and there are many regulars who say that the MCCPSS cafe is the best deal in town. In order to ensure that the salad bar stays popular with students, Chef Wood meets with each grade to review the breakfast and lunch protocol with the kids at the beginning of each year. She always reminds students that the salad bar is an opportunity for them to branch out and try new things.

To keep their salad bar fresh, MCCPS serves produce on their salad bar from their 3 school gardens—that is, when the woodchucks haven’t eaten it all. “We had a family of woodchucks living near the garden, four of them. They ate everything in the garden besides the arugula. They got so fat they couldn’t fit under the deck anymore,” says Chef Wood. Despite the invasive woodchucks, and with the help of a dedicated food service team, the salad bar and cafe at MCCPS are a huge success.

Sep 7, 2018

Bridging the Gap Between Students and Food Sources

Roasted chickpeas and fresh pomegranates are items you probably don’t expect to see in an ordinary school cafeteria. But luckily for the students at Vista Unified School District (VUSD) in Oceanside, California, Director of Child Nutrition Services Jamie Phillips is not interested in creating an ordinary school cafeteria experience.

District Enrollment: 21,500

Number of Schools in District: 26

Free and Reduced rate: 64%

District ADP (Average Daily Participation): 53%

Director Phillips and his team at VUSD are salad bar experts, with seemingly endless events and strategies to keep their bars relevant and healthy. One of their most engaging events, “Fear Factor,” includes a booth set up with the help of parent volunteers that offers students tastings of unique, fresh foods that will later be incorporated into the salad bar, like roasted chickpeas and local pomegranates. If students can guess what foods they tried, they earn an “I Conquered the Fear Factor” sticker. Director Phillips says that when they host these events, “kids get engaged with trying new things, and then they see them on the salad bar and are familiar with them.” 

Along with the “Fear Factor” events, Director Phillips continues to engage the school community by incorporating tons of locally sourced produce into their bars. Proud of their commitment to local farmers, last year alone the district procured 78,000 lbs of fresh produce exclusively from California. Currently, the district is in the process of creating a large banner with the state of California on it that will have markers to show the location of each farm that provides produce to the district. Director Phillips believes that the students are more excited about eating off the salad bar when they have a visual of where the produce came from, and this banner will be a testament to the locality of VSDU’s procurement. 

This commitment to local produce and engaging students continues to have a significant impact on VUSD’s salad bar program. Phillips admits that he can be “a little competitive” and does want to be a leader in certain areas of school food. This explains why VUSD is hiring a part-time driver and purchasing a truck to deliver fresh produce to all school sites, as local farmers cannot always deliver to so many locations. For Director Phillips, having produce in the schools without chemicals and waxes is worth the extra labor, and we couldn’t agree more!

Along with the procurement of California produce, VUSD has found a way to get even more local by incorporating produce grown in their school gardens into the salad bars. One of Phillip’s favorite memories regarding salad bars at VUSD is when he worked with a K-6 teacher who taught Aeroponics, or the growing of plants without the use of soil. Phillips recalls students in the class cutting and washing the lettuce they grew, then watching its incorporation into the salad bar. He says the kids were very enthusiastic about heading to lunch knowing that they’d get to consume the fruits (or in this case, lettuces) of their labors off their school salad bars.

With a little commitment and creativity, Vista Unified School District is bridging the gap between students and their food sources, resulting in more successes at the salad bar.

Links:

Jun 13, 2018

Chef Ann Foundation Q2 Impact Report

Dear CAF Supporter,
I hope this finds you well and enjoying summer. We are quite busy at the Chef Ann Foundation and because you are a supporter and advocate for healthy children, we want to share our achievements, programming developments and impact opportunities with you in the attached Q2 Impact Report.
Here are some recent quotes from our grantees:

Shannon Williams, Food Service Director of Ouray School District is a frequent Lunch Box user who provided this feedback: “...armed with your recipes and menu cycles, we increased our student participation by 35%! I also started a Farm to School program this year and am working on a Reducing Food Waste Program. Thank you for providing this AMAZING resource. Your work is greatly appreciated!”

Watertown Public Schools in MA, part of the Get Schools Cooking cohort, shifted spending to more fresh fruits and veggies and eliminated all ice cream, frozen desserts and processed beef. To add more scratch cooked recipes, they introduced whole muscle chicken, a locally procured pizza crust and fish tacos.  

Thank you for helping ensure every child has access to healthy food every day. 
Chef Ann Foundation Team

Attachments:
 
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