Wednesday, March 3, 2010

NH School Food Initiatives

Dr. Reginald Mayo, Superintendent of Schools was interested in what I was doing in Bloomfield, CT Schools with Farm-to-School and serving children healthy foods and had a similar vision for NHPS. He sought me out for the big stage to impact many more children in CT and to make this a model for other school districts to follow. That was July, 2008.

• School year 08-09 Food Services moved to a whole grain model for breads. USDA chooses NHPS School Food to participate in a whole grain pilot program.

• School year 08-09 – present: School menus feature mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed butternut squash, roasted vegetables, corn on the cob all produced from scratch using fresh vegetables. We have substituted some of our beef for turkey products. Vegetarian offerings have increased to mixed reactions to include vegetable lasagna, eggplant parmagiana & pierogies along with more traditional items including salads, grilled cheese and whole grain pizza with reduced fat cheese.

• School year 09-10 chicken nuggets were eliminated from the menu; roasted “on the bone” chicken is a staple on our menu, always served with fresh vegetables.

• A la carte meal offerings and snacks were completely removed from the K-8 schools to keep the focus on the reimbursesable meal.

• NH School Food continues to think outside the “Lunch Box” by offering new and exciting sauces with our meals: Tangy Cherry Sauce, Sweet Red Pepper Sauce, Cacciatore Sauce, Curry Sauce, Cranberry Gravy and Sweet & Sour Sauce. We also are trying to incorporate new menu items: Shepherd’s Pie, Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry, Chicken Pot Pie and Jambalaya

• NHPS School Food is moving closer to the Central Kitchen model for all its K-8 schools. We can obtain better quality food and draw more competitive prices when purchasing in bulk. This will allow us to keep our costs stable and serve better meals to our students.

• Food Services diverted $50,000 in commodity money to the DOD produce program to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables in School Year 08-09 and increased to $95,000 for SY 09-10. The DOD program has also provided us with many products from local farms.

• Chef Tim wrote the bid documents for produce to attract a large produce vendor with very competitive prices who specializes in local farms to be our vendor
o In school year 08-09 more than 300 cases of apples (that's 12,000 lbs or 36,000 apples), 300 cases of pears, 75 cases of peaches, 100 cases of green beans, 100 cases of potatoes, and more than 6500 pounds of butternut squash, 400 pounds of tomatoes, 135 bags of corn, and quite a few cases of miscellaneous items such as cukes, eggplant, green and yellow squash, peppers, kale, and cabbage were procured from local farms in CT and MA. In 09-10 we increased our local farm purchases to 48,000 pounds.

• Chef Tim and Will Clark, NHPS COO met with The Sound School and developed a relationship to begin working together to feed New Haven students produce grown by New Haven students.
o 9/09: Sound School Pesto Roasted Chicken
o 10/09: Sound School veggies were present in the vegetable lasagna and salsa during CT Grown for CT Kids Week
o 11/09: NHPS School Food served Sound School Pesto Roasted Vegetables at the Working Lands Alliance Annual Meeting at the State Capitol.
o The Sound School Students also work with aquaponics and hydroponics; we are in discussions for them to grow micro-greens for us to serve to the students.

• Chef Tim is working collaboratively with local community groups to start our own farm. The farm will be split into 2 parts, a 5 acre educational farm where the students will grow whatever they want, ie: bananas, pineapples, coconuts… and a 35-40 acre production farm where we will grow vegetables to serve in our schools. We will start basic with the ingredients (tomatoes, onions, peppers, herbs, etc…) to produce marinara sauce and salsa, we will work with a local processor to produce these in bulk for us to use in our schools. We will also have smaller packaging where we can market and sell the marinara sauce & salsa in local stores to generate revenue for the farm. Long term goal is to add Greenhouses to the Farm to grow all year long.

• Chef Tim continues to meet with School Foodservice Directors and Chefs from around the country to discuss improving foods that children eat at school.

• Chef Tim along with End Hunger CT! and the School Nutrition Association of CT (SNACT) was instrumental in working with the state legislature in keeping the healthy food certification funding from being reduced.

• NHPS School Food, End Hunger CT!, SNACT and CT Food Bank hosted a listening session with US Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and CT Representative Toni Walker at a Wexler/Grant School in New Haven to discuss and voice concerns and ideas regarding the 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.

• Chef Tim was chosen to serve on the Con-Agra School Advisory Board this year to assist a national food company move to a less processed mix of products.

• Chef Tim was invited to participate in a discussion regarding school marketing at the National Food Service Management Institute, Applied Research Division. Chef was one of seven food service director in the country invited to speak because of the success of the NHPS School Food Program. Chef was recommended by the CT State Director of Child Nutrition to participate in this discussion.

• NHPS School Food has been featured on the CT Style Show on WTNH Ch. 8 and the Better Connecticut Show on WFSB Ch. 3. We have received accolades from national trade magazines and newspapers. Chef Tim has spoken on National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” with Jennifer Ludden about removing junk food from school meals.

All these changes are possible because of the overwhelming support of the food service workers of Locals 217, 287, 884 & 3144 and the entire New Haven Public Schools Community!

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