Lodi’s Family Dinner from around the World

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What’s for dinner? Nancy Rostimily, Lodi Unified School District’s Food Service Director, decided it would be an international taste of salads, along with hot chicken noodle soup and bread as well as fresh Mandarin oranges, locally sourced and so sweet, for parents and students at one elementary school.

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On February 19, 2015, parents and students at Serna Elementary School in Lodi, a dual immersion language school English/Spanish, were treated to a “Family Centered Nutrition Education Night.” Nancy’s hope is that the concept will now travel to other schools in her district of 30,000 students K-12.

IMG_5786-300x239The event drew about 200 people and included five salad stations, one from each flavor profile around the world. Each station had a map of the area,  recipes to go of the salad samples being served, samples of typical  ingredients used in the cuisine such as sauces, spices, grains, vegetables and oils, and a student from the school’s culinary club to answer any questions — and encourage sample taking. At left was the Middle Eastern Salad — a couscous salad with raisins and parsley.

IMG_5777-300x225We, Evans & Brennan, were under contract with Lodi to conceptualize and produce the event under Nancy’s direction, along with school food service and nutrition education staff. We developed five salads to fit with five of the world’s cuisines. Each salad had toppings that could be self served. At left is the Mediterranean/European Salad – which had toppings available of Feta Cheese Crumbles, Red Sweet Pepper and Cucumbers. The kids loved this.

IMG_5783-300x232Latin American – Here Nancy’s staff prepared a Salad Base of Garbanzo Beans with extra virgin olive oil and lemon vinaigrette, with sliced radish and chopped green onions. The topping was Cotija cheese crumbles, which was especially popular.

IMG_5773-150x150Students and parents really enjoyed helping themselves, and often we saw students trying the tasting, then bringing their parents to try it, or taking one to them, or  the other way around, with parents liking it, taking a recipe card so they could make it at home. At left is a close up of the salad.

IMG_5785-300x225The African salad was a coleslaw tossed with a vinegar based dressing. Frequently coleslaw is served with a mayonnaise based dressing, so this was different for the students, and they enjoyed it. The presentation table also showed foods that originated in Africa such as vanilla beans and yams.

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Asian salad had a base of Asian cabbage with cilantro and Mandarin oranges added and a ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil vinaigrette. The add on featured was toasted sesame seeds and some toasted noodles for crunch. The noodles were a big hit, and the salad was popular as well. It’s a very fresh tasting salad with the citrus. Fresh ginger root was displayed, along with various types of dry noodles such as buckwheat or “soba” noodles, and Thai coconut milk (pictured below).

IMG_57671-300x225Nancy’s staff served the dinner as a reimbursable dinner to the students. The school is 100% served by free National School Lunch meals. We had sample packets of Asian sauces courtesy of Kikoman for parents to take home, as well as sample packets of CA Extra Virgin Olive Oil provided courtesy of California Olive Ranch. First Five CA had shipped their new cook booklet with tips on cooking with kids, authored by Evans & Brennan, “Fast, Fresh and Fun – Food From First 5″, which is free and in both Spanish and English. Lodi’s Nutrition Educator was there with information to give out as well as the local Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program — with a great informational display on how much sugar is in what kind of drink. The kids loved that.

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Nancy Rostimily, pictured left, is assembling the Asian salad. All the salads were prepared in a cooking kitchen and transported to the site, where they were assembled prior to dinner and plated out into sample cups. Student helpers assisted with this, as did Nancy’s staff.

The program is ready to travel to other Lodi schools now under Nancy’s direction.

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