Published on August 18th, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff0
District Five cafeteria workers train with USC experts
COLUMBIA – Students and teachers aren’t the only ones preparing for the start of the new school year. Student nutrition workers at Lexington-Richland School District Five took part in a training exercise to help fine-tune recipes and create healthier options in cafeterias.
The training with the University of South Carolina School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management’s culinary program is part of a federal Farm to School grant the district received last school year. Dubbed District Five’s Farm to Five Program, the nearly $100,000 grant provides for educational opportunities for students and staff as well as the implementation of more local foods into district cafeterias.
District Five Student Nutrition Director Todd Bedenbaugh said the goal of the August training was to improve and increase the local, fresh food options in cafeterias and sharpen the skills of student nutrition workers. “Our goal is to help them learn to process, chop, (and) cut these local products so they’ll be able to utilize that for the school lunch program … This year, we have a lot of new recipes, soups, salads, desserts … all made with fresh produce. And everyone will definitely see a change in our menus,” Bedenbaugh said.
State and federal officials say the Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including: food processors, manufacturers and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms and cooking classes.
University of South Carolina chef instructor Joel Reynolds demonstrated knife, safety and preparation skills with student nutrition staff during the training session. He says incorporating fresh and local ingredients in school cafeterias is important to creating healthier diets and lifestyles for students.
“This push for local and sustainable ingredients is important for everyone, especially for cafeteria workers serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Healthier eating is a lifestyle. If you learn it young, it will stick with you,” Reynolds said.
Seven Oaks Elementary Student Nutrition Manager Myra Smith said students have been very receptive to the new healthy food options already on the menu.
“Our participation actually increased last year, so I was thrilled about that. And even teachers … more teachers participated last year,” Smith said. “We hope that what we learn here will increase participation even more and help our workers feel more comfortable about preparing healthier foods.”
Through the Farm to School grant, District Five will implement a program that expands local food offerings in its schools, engages students in eating more and a greater variety of locally grown products, creates peer mentorship opportunities to launch effective school gardening and learning opportunities, trains school food service personnel in effective procurement and preparation of local foods, and enables educators to integrate food and nutrition-based learning across the school curriculum. Project partners will include the following: state Department of Agriculture; South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation; University of South Carolina’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism; Clemson University’s Department of Food, Nutrition and Packaging Science; W.P. Rawl & Sons, Inc. and Midlands Biofuels.