Monday, April 12, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, Part II

I do agree with Jamie Oliver that a wake up call is needed somewhat for some school districts, but not all. There are many fine examples of school districts that have made significant changes throughout the country. The School Nutrition Association has been actively working with the USDA and Congress to promote better meals in schools.

My workers and I in New Haven not only talk about all the great things we do , but we also DO all these great things and publicize it.

It is fantastic that a celebrity chef is interested in seeing through with change and I applaud him for that, but the real heroes are the men and women in our school kitchens. Not only is Jamie a well know Chef but also a TV star, and BAD stuff sells, good stuff is TOO boring.

Below is just a start of what we have accomplished in less than 2 years by taking baby steps to change. Anything is possible but when we are dealing with children as our customers we need to remember children are fussy, that is why taking baby steps is so effective. Even with our tight budget we have made some drastic changes:

NH School Food Initiatives
Anything is possible but our children are our customers. We need to remember children are fussy; that is why taking baby steps is so effective. Even with our tight budget we have made some drastic changes.
Dr. Reginald Mayo, Superintendent of Schools was interested in the program Chef Tim developed in Bloomfield, CT Schools with Farm-to-School and serving children healthy foods and had a similar vision for NHPS. He brought in Chef Tim to work on 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.

NH School Food: Menu Offerings & Food

Working together with the top rated district wellness team in Connecticut, as assessed by the Connecticut State Department of Education and the Yale Rudd Center for Policy & Obesity, NH School Food is growing stronger every day developing new models for others to follow.
• 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.
NH School Food: Farm Fresh Fruits & Veggies
• 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 local farm purchases exceeded50,000 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 & 10/09: Sound School Pesto Roasted Chicken. Student grown 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.

     o Barnard School has a large school garden; we are developing afterschool enrichment programs with area chefs to teach both students and parents what to do with the veggies they grow. This may be a long term solution to childhood obesity.

     o Edgewood School has a small organic garden; the vegetables are used for an afterschool cooking program with local chefs.

     o Benjamin Jepson School began construction of raised beds for an organic garden

     o Hill Central School is under construction and the plans include a 1200 sq ft organic garden.

• NH School Food is working collaboratively with local community groups to start our own farm. The farm will likely be split into 2 parts.

     o 5 acre educational farm where the students will grow whatever they want, ie: bananas, pineapples, coconuts; while WE know these will not grow in CT we want to use this as an opportunity to educate the students on why and how they will not grow. We will also grow corn and soybeans to teach the students how these two vegetables have a negative effect on the soil and how they can significantly change the food system. We will also educate the students on basic preparation of the fruits and veggies to get the ready to be cooked, or eaten raw. This farm will be a full educational experience.

        Envision bee hives, tapping of maple trees for sugaring, inoculating trees with mushrooms, composting worms and perhaps livestock in the future.

     o 35-40 acre production farm where we will grow vegetables to serve in our schools. Two ideas on the vision of the farm include:

       Growing a wide assortment of vegetables that can be blanched/roasted and frozen in bulk to be used throughout the school year.

        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.

       Long term goals:

       • Add Greenhouses to the Farm to grow all year long.

       • Add a Barn to be used as classrooms, sugar shack, commercial kitchen and for storage

     o Both farms will be run under the auspices of one non-profit company. The non-profit will provide a certified Agriscience educator/PT farmer and a full time farmer.

     o The farms will be made available for field trips to any schools or company (TEAM Building) that would want to visit. This would be a revenue builder for the non-profit.

     o We are continuously applying for various grants that would allow for the establishment of the non-profit and to hire a Nutritionist for NH School Food. The Nutritionist would be working with the AG educator to ensure that the curricula meets the requirements that we set to educate the students on good nutrition habits in addition to teaching them about where the food comes from. We envision over 2,000 students will tour the farm on field trips from CPS and NHPS the first year with an additional 50 students coming through our Agriculture training program.

     o The promotion of the farm to the teachers and administrators can be achieved professional development days & community events.

     o We plan to continue working with our existing school yard gardens and creating more. We will also be planting small orchards in city schools, and spreading our message through different local and national media outlets, including print, TV and film.

We want to create a model that can be adapted by school districts across the country. We are also in discussions of adding a distribution channel to the non-profit to gain access to more local farms for our schools. By eliminating the middle man we can offer the farmer a fair price and decrease the prices currently offered by produce distributors. In addition we feel the distribution and farm plans will qualify us for Regionalization funding from the state.

NH School Food: Policy Work
• Chef Tim was one of only two school nutrition chefs to participate in the Childhood Obesity Summit at The White House on Friday April, 9, 2010. The summit was an opportunity for the President’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity to hear from experts and practitioners about the extent and causes of childhood obesity in this country and to gather input for its action plan to solve the problem within a generation, which is due to the President in May.
• Chef Tim continues to meet with National Hunger Relief Organizations, School Foodservice Directors & Chefs from around the country to discuss improving foods that children eat at school.

• Chef Tim along with End Hunger CT! & 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 and has 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!
I hope the above wasn't information overload. We are not the only school district making these changes, we just like to keep everyone informed. Check out for more information on the School Nutrition Association. Or visit our website at

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