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Minnesota Thursdays and “Chefs Move to Schools”

Contributed by: Megan LeClair, Minnesota Department of Education and Karensa Tischer, PartnerSHIP4Health For many school nutrition professionals, finding time away from daily work to attend trainings is difficult. However, training is necessary to prepare nutritious foods with limited labor hours. Steph Beyer, Breckenridge School’s Food Service Director, says “Finding healthy foods that are easy to prepare and that kids will eat is one of my biggest challenges.”

To overcome the challenge of scheduling and finding substitutes, Karensa Tischer, Dietitian for PartnerSHIP4Health (PS4H), connected Steph with Kyle Armitage, chef at the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) Culinary Arts Department, to bring a national initiative, “Chefs Move to School” to Breckenridge High School. This partnership formed two years ago and is based on the Let’s Move Initiative. Since then, Chef Kyle has brought his culinary student chefs into the high school kitchen for three different hands-on culinary training events.

The events allow school staff to build the skills and confidence to prepare healthy school meals in a familiar setting. The food prepared during the training is served to the high school students in the cafeteria. It has been a win-win partnership as Chef Kyle is always looking for experiential learning opportunities for his students, and Steph’s staff has gained new recipe ideas, along with expanding their culinary skills and maximizing use of their combi oven.

Farm to School Month            

To celebrate Farm to School Month in October, the team had a “Minnesota Thursdays” themed event. The school nutrition staff and culinary students diced and roasted locally grown squash and peppers for Breckenridge High School students to enjoy. Students also enjoyed apples grown in the district’s apple orchard, along with a marinated cucumber and tomato salad made with local ingredients, and a variety of locally grown veggies offered on the salad bar. The student chefs did an excellent job of promoting the locally grown dishes while assisting the school nutrition staff to serve the meal. By having the culinary students serve the meals, the high school students in the district were reminded that there are career opportunities in the field of culinary arts.

Tischer and the NDSCS team hope that school staff will continue to use the cooking techniques covered in the training and incorporate them into their everyday kitchen practices. By making it easier for kitchen staff in schools to access these resources and events, we can ensure that children in our communities have access to fresh, high-quality, nutritious food each day at school.

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