Tag Archives: workshops for school food service workers

Hands-on Enthusiasm at School Food Service Workshops

“I feel inspired and inspiring” Marta wrote in an email post-teaching one of the first two  Discover.Cook. Nourish. workshops for school food service workers (part of the national CPPW grant).  Eight workshops down and a few dozen more to go, we’re getting a big thumbs up from the participants.

The school food service workers in attendance fill out evaluations after the 8-hour day rating various criteria on a 1 (low) to 5 (highest) scale.  There are 10 topics to score such as effectiveness of power points, thoroughness of presentation, relevance to self and work, teacher’s ability to answer questions and so on for a maximum of 50 points.  “Session overall” and “would you recommend this workshop to others” is currently getting averaging 4.8 out of 5.  The overall average, combining scores for all 10 topics is 46.8 out of 50.  Everyone working on this project is jazzed about the kudos we’re receiving.

What aspect do participants like best?  Hands down, the most frequent praise on the evaluations is for the hands-on cooking sections of the workshop.  Auburn and King County food service workers simmer quinoa, spice up black beans, take chicken for a swim in yogurt, curry up chickpeas, get down with braised greens and slice and dice fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs to adorn each dish.  Their “Build a Bowl”  lunches evoke yummy yummy yummy I got love in my tummy.

The workshops represent steps toward bettering the cash-strapped school lunch program.  How to implement what participants are learning will more time, more push.  Luckily the second favorite aspect of the workshops, as reported by participants on the evaluations, is “sharing ideas”.  The day ends with a game called “Cauldron of Insight” which stimulates this type of conversation.  Groundbreaking ideas are being offered by Alice Waters, Ann Cooper and Jamie Oliver but the way to change may also emerge from the hearts and minds of the people who work in the school lunch program Monday through Friday.  I can’t wait to see what bubbles up.

Answers to the evaluation question: Which part of the training did you find most useful?

  • Learning to cook with ingredients I’ve never used.
  • Loved being able to try food that I wanted to try but did not know how to prepare.
  • All because it will be helpful in my job and my personal life
  • I enjoyed every part of the training class.  I can’t wait to implement certain ideas at school and in my home.

School Lunch Reflects Cultural Values

Cookus Interruptus has begun work on the CPPW (Communities Putting Prevention to Work) grant creating workshops to train school food service workers on the wonders of whole foods cooking.  Margaret Dam RD, Child Nutrition Coordinator for Auburn School District is overseeing the grant.  Carol White, MS, RD is busy writing sections of the workbook needed for the project and we have lined up a stellar group of teachers to give the workshops.

As I work on this project, I am always mindful of how handcuffed the system is by lack of funds.  In King County the budget for school lunch is about $2.75 per child per lunch.  About 50% of that goes to labor leaving only around $1.37 for food.  But lack of funding doesn’t excuse everything.

The French have a different take on school lunch: ” The variety on the menus is astonishing: no single meal is repeated over the 32 school days in the period, and every meal includes an hors d’oeuvre, salad, main course, cheese plate and dessert.”  Mary Brighton is a US mom living in Paris who writes the blog brightonyourhealth.  She’s been comparing French school lunches to a fare served at a school in New Jersey for a number of days.  Here’s a sample from Mary’s blog:
Toms River, NJ
Choice of 1 main dish, 2 sides and served with a half pint of milk
Baked Ziti with Meatballs or Macaroni and Cheese
Potato Wedges and Applesauce

Pau, France
Served with slices of baguette and water
Turkey Pieces with Sweet and Sour Sauce
Rice with Diced Vegetables “Brunoise”
Creamy Sheep Cheese and an Apple

You might think that they have a great deal more $ to spend on each school lunch.  According to a recent video on CBS news  (worth a watch) about $5 per child is budgeted in Parisian schools, but in southern France one chef is creating gourmet feasts for ½ that – an amount comparable to King County.

The French feel it is important to train young children to appreciate good food.  Gourmet lunches made from fresh food begin in nursery school.  Lunch time in a French school is generally longer than in the US so that the children can eat at a leisurely pace and enjoy the company of their friends.  Imagine that.