Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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

School nutrition managers from across North Carolina have the opportunity to participate in regional N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute workshops this summer.
Jun 18, 2024
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School nutrition managers from across North Carolina have the opportunity to participate in regional N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute workshops this summer. The institute was developed by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) Office of School Nutrition in cooperation with a team of registered dietitians and chefs to increase the availability of fresh, appealing, nutritious meals at school.

“Appealing meals that are filling and nutritious help students focus,” said Dr. Lynn Harvey, senior director of the NCDPI Office of School Nutrition. “The North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute provides school nutrition professionals 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 NCDPI Office of School Nutrition worked with Chef Cyndie Story and the nationally-accomplished K-12 Culinary Team to develop 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 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.

With the N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute, over 200 recipes have been developed for school meals in North Carolina, featuring whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and locally grown ingredients. The menus and recipes developed 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. A family resource offers a collection of the N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute recipes that students and their families can prepare at home.

This year, with support from a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Team Nutrition Training Grant, recipes developed by N.C. Jr. Chef teams have been incorporated into the N.C. K-12 Institute recipe database and workshops. For the N.C. Jr. Chef Competition, high school students across the state work with their teachers and local school nutrition programs to create school lunch entrée recipes that adhere to National School Lunch Program guidelines, include North Carolina-grown ingredients and USDA Foods, and appeal to students.

The institute workshops for school nutrition managers are three days and 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. Participants in the N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute graduate as chef ambassadors or culinary specialists. Utilizing provided teach-it-forward lessons and resources, the ambassadors are charged with teaching skills learned during the workshops to other school nutrition professionals at the local district or school level. Providing 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, more than 1,360 school nutrition professionals have graduated as culinary specialists from school food authorities statewide, including traditional public school units, charter schools, non-public schools and residential child-care institutions.

The NCDPI Office of School Nutrition and the K-12 Culinary team are working with local public school units (PSUs) to offer N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute workshops this summer from June through August. PSUs hosting the regional workshops this summer are Alamance-Burlington School System, Alexander County Schools, Cherokee County Schools, Columbus County Schools, Northampton County Schools and Pitt County Schools.

The NCDPI Office of School Nutrition is the state agency 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 USDA. 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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