Post by Cody Williams
Here is a snapshot of topics I am currently involved with at this busy time of year!
In lieu of Earth Day I thought I would do my first post on Who’s Cooking School Lunch! There is a great movement in our public schools here in California called California Thursdays that officially launched today. The program is put on by The Center of Ecoliteracy and encourages school districts throughout the state to serve regionally sourced ingredients that aren’t processed. The goal is to dedicate one Thursday a month to the regional foods with hopes to increase to more days. There are currently 42 districts serving 250 million meals annually! There are two links below for more information.
I am the Food Service Manager at Sonoma Valley Unified School District and we are one of those 42 districts participating in the program. Today on our menu we are serving tostada boats with local produce grown on our Altimira Middle School campus, lettuces and spring onions. We are making guacamole in house with California avocados and using hydro tomatoes.
There are a lot of other interesting and exciting things I am working on at the moment. One of which is the Nutri Bullet Uni Living program that one of our elementary 5th graders won as part of a grant. As a food service director I am always looking for strategic partnerships to help with nutrition education and this program is a great resource. Our school site was one of five sites selected to participate. The program not only supplies each student in the class a full Nutri Bullet set for their home but also sets up a blast bar in the classroom where students get to start their day with a nutritious blast! The program also provides $10,000 of funds to purchase the products for the three month program. Each month the students get to custom make their own blast following the recommended menu. more information can be found at:
I am a member of the Child Nutrition Advisory Council for the California State Board of Education. At our recent meeting, one topic in particular which we discussed is an interest of mine — the continued advancement of Nutrition Education both in schools and in training of food service staff to promote healthy nutrition in the cafeterias. Below is the link for more information and to see previous topics and minutes from those meetings. More to come on that.
One program in particular I am excited about this summer is the Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSFO) which we will be participating in for our first year. Districts that have are in a needy area may qualify for the program which assists the USDA continue their School Nutrition Lunch Program (SNLP) during the summer months while school is out. This program allows districts to continue to serve healthy school meals to anyone under 18 years of age regardless of income qualification. We have designated out elementary site which will be participating in summer school as our sponsor site so not only does every students in the summer school program get to eat a free school meal we also allow the community to come for our second serve. Our program will run from June 10th through July 10th! Last year alone California vended $990 million dollars through the SSFO program! More to come on that as well.
As if that is not enough, I am in the process of wrapping up my districts participation in the USDA Meal Cost Survey. Every 3 years the USDA in partnership with Mathmatica Policy Research and Adt Associates selects districts throughout the country and conducts a school food cost study. The goal will assist in understanding the true cost of the new school meal pattern including plate waist. My hope is that this important study will show the increased cost of these new regulations and can adjust our reimbursement rates in the future. The cost study will be available for release in 2017. I had an analyst here the past three days looking at one elementary school one middle school and our high school. The analyst took back a large packet of information they requested that looks a food and district staffing cost and food cost for the year and the month prior to our target week. Second part of the study looks at our menu analysis of sale items during our target week. So each site is required to log in everything that was prepped and sold during each day of the week. Then the study will up match up our sold items from the invoices provided in their hopes to capture the true cost of the program.
And lastly, I will be in San Antonio Texas May 5-7th for the Culinary Institute of America’s, Healthy Flavors Healthy Kids National Conference. This is the second year of this conference which is now dedicated towards healthy school food. I have participated in the California School Nutrition Association CSNA conference and I am excited to see what our leading culinary institute can do at one of its campuses. There is no doubt that they will inspire and show hands on real world applications that participates can take back to their districts and put into action! As a CIA graduate from Hyde Park I was lucky enough to receive a free invitation to the event and also participate in a panel discussion called “Scratch, Processed or Somewhere In Between”. I was asked to provide 5 tips in 5 minutes, so here are mine:
- Know your demographics (customers/ethnicity/historical importance/local products)
- Make food a priority (balance commodity products with fresh local products/foods grown on campus, in community, counties and state)
- Empower your employees to be a part of the decision-making process (fresh fruits and veg bars, we meet monthly on elementary menus, relinquish some control in the system and see what happens with monitoring)
- Create strategic partnerships with shared common goals which will support your program and assist with marketing (school based curriculum /gardens, local farms/Dept of Education Grants/CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers), food manufacturing, etc.)
- Simplify (make things easier and efficient, simplify processes/menus/production/workloads.) Your staff is your greatest asset
More to come on this as well.
Cheers, Chef Cody