Monday, June 12, 2023

Innovative N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute Increases School Meal Appeal

School Nutrition managers from across North Carolina have the opportunity this summer to participate in regional N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute workshops beginning this week through August.
Jun 12, 2023

School Nutrition managers from across North Carolina have the opportunity this summer to participate in regional N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute workshops beginning this week through August. The institute was developed by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, Office of School Nutrition, in cooperation with a team of registered dietitians and chefs to increase the availability of fresh, appealing and nutritious meals at school.

“Appealing meals that are filling and nutritious help students focus,” said Dr. Lynn Harvey, senior director of NCDPI’s Office of School Nutrition. “The North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute provides School Nutrition managers with tools and information they can take back and implement in their School Nutrition Programs to ensure students receive the meals they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.”

The Office of School Nutrition worked with Chef Cyndie Story and the nationally accomplished K-12 Culinary Team in developing the institute to meet five core objectives:

  • Improve student health, well-being, and academic success through nutritious, appealing meals at school,
  • Increase participation in high quality, enticing School Nutrition Programs,
  • Expand the capacity of local school nutrition programs to purchase, prepare and serve fresh, locally grown produce,
  • Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain-rich foods, and
  • Provide continuing education opportunities for School Nutrition personnel.

Over 200 new recipes, like BahnMi Flatbread, Chilaquiles, Chipotle Grilled Chicken Salad, and Cheesy Potato with Vegetarian Chili, have been developed for school meals in North Carolina, featuring whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, lowfat dairy, and locally grown ingredients. The menus and recipes developed for the N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute include scratch, convenience, and modified scratch products and techniques, instructions written for production amounts consistent with pack or pan sizes commonly available in school kitchens, and nutritional analysis files for easy import into software programs and adjustments for standardization in schools and districts.

The institute’s three-day workshops for School Nutrition managers include interactive classroom and in-kitchen instruction. Planned instructional segments cover topics such as knife skills, weighing and measuring accurately, preparing foods for just-in-time service, work simplification and scheduling, effective use of equipment, and quality food preparation and service for a variety of meats, grains, fruits, vegetables, and condiments. In addition, merchandising, marketing, and nutrition education best practices are addressed.

“This Institute is such a great way we can share information and best practices with School Nutrition leaders while creating a learning environment that emphasizes hands-on instruction and skills practice,” State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said. “Graduating participants will leave these workshops knowing how to prepare nutritious meals for North Carolina’s students to continue growing and thriving both in and outside of the classroom.”

Districts hosting the regional workshops this summer are Brunswick County Schools, Cumberland County Schools, Dare County Schools, Franklin County Schools, Henderson County Schools, Onslow County Schools, Rowan-Salisbury Schools, and Yadkin County Schools. 

Participants in the North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute graduate as chef ambassadors or culinary specialists. Using lessons and resources learned during the institutes, the ambassadors are charged with teaching skills during the workshops to other School Nutrition professionals at the local district or school level. Equipping School Nutrition professionals with needed equipment, educational resources, and skills can positively impact the preparation, service, and consumption of school meals.

Since the N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute was launched in 2016, the program has graduated 1,200 School Nutrition managers as culinary specialists from school food authorities statewide, including traditional public schools, charter schools, non-public schools, and residential child-care institutions.

With support from the Farm to School Coalition of North Carolina, N.C. State University (NCSU) Cooperative Extension, Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, the NCDPI, Office of School Nutrition and the K-12 Culinary team are working with local Public schools and districts to offer N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute workshops this summer from June through August.

The NCDPI, Office of School Nutrition is the State Agency (SA) in North Carolina administering the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Special Milk Program, After School Snack Program, Seamless Summer Option, and Summer Food Service Program with federal assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additional information regarding School Nutrition Programs in North Carolina and the N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute can be found on the NCDPI, Office of School Nutrition website.

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