It’s “back to school” time and I’ve been setting up my Busy Kitchen offsite in several areas schools helping their child nutrition staff get ready for a new year. Even though we home educate our children, I have always had a passion for school lunch programs and training child nutrition workers. Maybe I just have a thing for “lunch ladies” or maybe it brings back fond memories of my own childhood eating in the cafeteria at my little rural Oklahoma school, but I love it! I am also incredibly passionate about farm to table practices and eating locally grown produce. Gratefully over the past several years the trend has grown more and more popular here in Oklahoma.
Throughout the year I travel to schools across the state and train child nutrition workers a.k.a. “lunch ladies” in a culinary boot camp style day. As a state we’ve made some amazing strides in providing our local school lunch program with fresh produce from local farms. The Oklahoma Farm to School Program Act was created by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Brad Henry on June 7, 2006, encouraging Oklahoma schools to purchase products from Oklahoma producers and supports the additional activities of the program.
One such activity of the act provides schools lunch personnel with training on how to work with fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown on farms in their region.
With healthy fresh ingredients like this……………
For most of the programs we visit they have implemented more fresh fruits and vegetables into their menus in the last few years. But, with new regulations on child nutrition programs, the program directors are having to add many more items and have their staff trained to meet the new demands. My role is to help guide the staff through knife safety, proper vegetable and fruit fabrication or cutting and also encourage them to try new dishes that they may be serving the students in the coming year. We divided them into teams and had them cook several recipes from the farm to school recipe book called the “kidchen expedition”. It’s a website featuring an amazing array of recipes and resources. These recipes are fun, colorful, nutrient rich and kid friendly. I wrote several of the recipes and child nutrition directors from all over the state submitted their favorites as well.
1/2 teaspoon ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix
2 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese
1/4 cup carrots, washed, chopped and grated
1/4 cup zucchini, washed and cut into small strips
1/4 cup yellow summer squash, washed and cut into small strips
1/2 tomato, washed and diced
2 tablespoons green bell pepper, washed before cutting
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives, washed before cutting
2 spinach or whole-wheat tortillas
In a small bowl, stir ranch seasoning into cream cheese, then chill.
Prepare vegetables. Steam broccoli in microwave for 1 minute with 1 tablespoon water.
Spread cream cheese onto tortillas, staying 1 inch from edge. Sprinkle vegetables over cream cheese on tortillas. Roll up tightly.
Nutrition Analysis Per Serving: 130 calories, 2.5 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 5 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 220 milligrams sodium, 17 percent of calories from fat and 7 percent of calories from saturated fat.
This specific training was in Okmulgee Oklahoma and is set up to have child nutrition staff touch taste, smell and experience a variety of local produce and then convert that bounty in to a variety of recipes that can be served on their yearly menu.
Chris Kirby, the director of the program coordinates the training and organizes the events. She is joined by Rita Scott in this picture. Rita is also a farm to school coordinator and is so passionate about food security and education.
In addition to the child nutrition training in the schools, the farm to school program provides resources for you at home too. Here is another recipe we cooked during the training. They are all delicious and easy to prepare at home.
Fresh Watermelon Salsa
Serving Size: 1/2 Cup
1/2 (7-10-pound) watermelon, washed well before cutting, diced in 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, cleaned, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, cleaned, diced
1 jalapeno peppers, washed, seeds and membranes removed, finely chopped
1/4 bunch of cilantro, washed and finely chopped
1/3 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients gently in a large bowl.
Serve immediately or store salsa in the refrigerator for up to a day in a covered plastic or glass container.
Serve with baked tortilla chips, chicken or fish.
Hold at 41 degrees F or lower
It’s exciting to think these recipes will be used through the state to bring school lunch programs to a new level.
This is my new friend Janneth. She was the manager at the kitchen we used and so helpful. She helped me make the Watermelon Granita for dessert with the left over watermelon from the salsa. Thanks Janneth!
I’m so excited about these farm to school initiatives and encourage you to check out what your local district is doing to get involved! For more information visit:
Thanks Chris for the opportunity and I can’t wait until the next training!
Chef Poe :D