School Nutrition’s Annual National Conference and Exhibit
San Antonio, Texas, is the seventh most populated city in the United States and the dry 100 degree days in July are HOT! It was definitely cooler inside the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, but the action and learning was just as hot as the south central Texas days outside.
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) Annual National Conference pulls members and vendors from all across the U.S. and is likely one of the most fun events you can attend each year as a K-12 professional. We always have a great time and a great theme in the Winston booth. This year we were dedicated to Mission: Possible!
And like always, we dressed, played and had fun with the part!
This may have been one of our most active times at this yearly conference so far. Fans of CVap stopped to learn and have fun in droves.
Everyone enjoyed the Winston “Selfie Station,” nights on the Riverwalk, The Annual Membership, Star Club Breakfast, and so much more.
Honestly I have about a hundred photos and trying to choose which ones to post was not easy! My favorite though, was this shot at the airport as we were all leaving to go home. One of many examples I saw while everyone waited to board their respective flights. Another awesome time at SNA’s ANC with your CVap friends at Winston!
In 1909 in Ventura, Calif., teacher Zilda M. Rogers wrote to the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of California, Berkeley, then, a primary proponent and provider of garden education resources for schoolteachers. “With the love of the school garden has grown the desire for a home garden and some of their plots at home are very good…Since commencing the garden work the children have become better companions and friends…and to feel that there is a right way of doing everything…it is our garden…We try to carry that spirit into our schoolroom.”
School gardens have been common in Europe for quite some time, with the earliest records dated to 1811. It wasn’t until recently that their nationwide resurgence in the U.S. has become much more prevalent. My good friend and kitchen manager of Baker Place Elementary in Columbia County Georgia took it upon herself to get her students involved. She is loved by everyone at that school. I stopped by to see her shortly after she created this colorful start to her garden.
There is so much kids can learn from school gardens. From proper clothing to harvesting and finally being able to taste what they grew on their own school lunch lines!
One of my favorite blogs, “Ideas in Food,” created by Alex Talbot and Aki Kamozowa is, about allowing your imagination to look at new and creative ways of using food. But they never fail to look at what is obvious. Their daughter Amaya has been growing food with her friends at school.
Look at these lovely lettuces she was able to bring home and show to Mom and Dad.
The Florida School Nutrition State Conference in Daytona Beach
I know, I know- a little bit much to start with. That’s me and my pal, Mike Burke. Mike and I are two of the very few fortunate people who are in the food service equipment industry that work as ambassadors to School Nutrition. Actually, he’s an ambassador; my title is “Guru.” So a little much is sometimes what we’re about. We’ve taken photos in this pose all over the country, but this one by far was the most “colorful!”
We were standing at the entrance of the main event at the Florida School Nutrition Conference in Daytona Beach. And it was fun and LOUD! We were all instructed to wear bright colors in order to pick up the dozens of black lights that surrounded the room.
It was awesome to watch. This conference, titled Runnin’ Down a Dream, is not only the name of Gainesville, Florida native Tom Petty’s tune, but it was Florida School Nutrition President Lori Drenth’s mantra for her year as chief.
See, Lori had a goal of upping the membership in the state of Florida. She will tell you herself the membership numbers in Georgia have haunted her. She swore at the beginning of her tenure that she was coming after Georgia and she did! Georgia boasts the best membership numbers in the U.S., but this year Lori’s hard work paid off. Florida has the distinction of being the fastest growing school nutrition membership in America.
Lori’s determination didn’t stop there. She was one of 50 school districts to apply for the Winston School Nutrition Grant. Ten pieces of equipment were selected to go to the winning district and Lori’s district, Hernando County was chosen. Talk about good fortune. I asked her to buy me some lottery tickets!
There have been some historic Florida Association State Presidents in the last few years that have dealt with really important issues from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, children and family food insecurity, community eligibility and so much more. These two were among the best, Ida Daniels of Hamilton County Schools up in the panhandle and Donna Wolter of Osceola County Schools, south of Orlando.
I go to a lot of state school nutrition conferences and they are all great in their own way. Florida of course is Florida. And there’s just something about having to work at the beach that is pretty special!
The Georgia School Nutrition State Conference in Savannah
And while it was great opening conversation, it was the conversation at the conference that really showed off what Georgia School Nutrition has to offer.
GSNA boasts the largest membership in the U.S. and there’s good reason why.
Here’s a term you may not have heard of: School District Owned Memberships otherwise known as SDMs. These are memberships that school districts can keep even if a member leaves or retires from the district. Then that membership can be transferred. This is a money-saving way of getting more school nutrition personnel to get involved with the program without another startup cost.
The total number of SDMs for March, 2016 was almost 30,000 strong. And since SDMs currently account for 50% of the total national School Nutrition Association membership, you can see how a program like this positively impacts the numbers. All state associations are now participating in SDM. Take a look at who’s on top!
This year’s festivities included a visit and performance from the one and only Paula Deen. She told the story of how hard she worked to overcome the obstacles in her life to become the owner of Lady and Sons restaurant, an author and TV personality.
Kern Halls, proprietor of Ingenious Culinary, a one stop consultancy for the purpose of consistently successful school food service operations, engaged the audience with concepts that enlightened and energized the crowd.
The conference for 2016 was titled “Aiming High in The Low Country” and it was GSNA State President Vanessa Hayes’ mantra for the year. Vanessa is one of the most dynamic people you’ll ever meet. Truly a gifted speaker/motivator and awesome director of the Tift County Schools, Georgia Program. Here, she’s pictured with the legendary Josephine Martin a resident of Georgia who is the living history of modern school nutrition.
These are just some highlights of this event, but believe me; it was educational, informational, engaging, absorbing, and entertaining. Honestly, words don’t do it justice. Check out this shot of the last evening titled, “Throw down in the Lowdown.” A huge seafood boil served buffet style right on the Hutchinson Island side of the river.
Working with State and National School Nutrition Associations
The School Nutrition State Conference schedule started in March. Alabama and Oregon were the first to kick off their events from March 11-12. I’m fortunate enough to serve on both the Executive Board and the Exhibit or Expo Board in Alabama as an Industry member. I also serve as the Industry representative to the Membership committee for the School Nutrition National Association. That’s why I’m very proud of the work Alabama has accomplished in recent years. Alabama’s School Nutrition membership has had steady growth for the last four years. I’ve actually witnessed the sheer amount of people that now attend the Conference and Expo compared to 2012.
With every state conference and exhibit it’s all about support. All of the state associations run with varying degrees of staff and help depending on the support they get. One major factor is industry support. These are the companies that buy space at annual exhibits to show food products, kitchen equipment, software and other technology that could easily help each kitchen run more efficiently.
As each vendor gets ready to load in, the first day looked like this:
But in just a few hours it looked like this:
Some states have two-day shows with selected hours on the floor of the exhibition that are designated strictly for purchasers. Alabama had a one-day show this year. Typically, each state tries to mix things up to get the best out of what is likely their biggest support event of the year.
Most of the time the conference eclipses with an awards banquet. This year it was exceptional…particularly for me.
I work with a School Nutrition Foundation committee assigned to interviewing School Nutrition Heroes. These are people who not only perform in their jobs, but actually work in the program. They go above and beyond, sometimes with difficult odds and outcomes to help super serve their communities. These people are honored each year along with a new group of five at School Nutrition’s Legislative Action Conference in Washington, D.C.
Alabama is one of only two states that has two heroes. 2013’s Karen Watson from Sylacauga City Schools (left) and 2016’s Samantha Ingram from Geneva County Schools (right).
No doubt I have gotten as much from the experience as they have, just by knowing them and seeing the things they’ve accomplished. This photo was taken less than two weeks after Samantha was honored in DC at the Alabama SNA awards banquet. It really is all about support. The membership, the State Association, the Vendors, Superintendents, Principals, PTA, and on and on. A lot of effort from a lot of different places. But I can tell you, in my experience, the reward is awesome.
I have the pleasure of being Winston Industries’ School Nutrition Guru, so I get to travel the U.S. and see and talk to School Nutrition departments of all kinds. Many are similar in structure, but really the personality of each district is based on those people who serve and are served by it. It naturally makes me proud to see Winston equipment in so many kitchens across the country. I really am fond of seeing the pride in the teams who love what they do and the kids who love the awesome and healthy food that is being produced now. That’s been real head turner for me!
This is an American story.
There is an emerging trend of Native American fare starting to make its way onto restaurant menus. A great example can be found at a restaurant called Ulele (pronounced You-lay-lee) in Tampa, Florida, where they celebrate a vibrant fusion of ingredients from the waters and land that was once home to many Native Americans, including the young princess Ulele. Check out their website at www.ulele.com. If you travel to Tampa and stop in at Ulele, ask for Chef Eric Lackey and tell him JJ sent you!
But what makes this story uniquely American is how we adopt foods that lean toward the ethnicities that have emigrated here. This is happening in schools across the country and kids everywhere love the variety, and of course for some it is a learning experience!
In 2012, the School Nutrition Association noted a growing prevalence of ethnic food choices in school cafeterias, with schools offering Mexican and Asian dishes, and many experimenting with Middle Eastern, Greek, Kosher/Halal, and Indian foods.
Students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools have been invited to choose from Teriyaki Chicken with Lo Mein Noodles; Curry Chicken Salad; Black Beans & Rice Bowls and Cuban-style Roast Pork. The district offers a wide range of Hispanic dishes throughout the year, including Arroz Con Pollo and Picadillo with Rice and Plantains. (Source: Diane Pratt-Heavner, Director of Media Relations, SNA-The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science)
School nutrition future leaders recently met for the National Leadership Conference in Minneapolis. This part of the story of Somalis coming to Minneapolis-St. Paul is a story of freedom. Somalis first immigrated to the Twin Cities as voluntary migrants in the 1980s and earlier. They journeyed to attend scholastic institutions or to establish businesses, including many professions. Other Somalis arrived in the United States after the start of the civil war in Somalia during the early 1990s, or from other parts of Greater Somalia. Many of the newer arrivals moved to Minnesota through voluntary agencies (VOLAGS), who helped them settle in. Somalis that had arrived earlier also assisted the more recent immigrants (Wikipedia).
So of course Somali food from home had a profound effect on the Twin Cities and made its way on to school lunch menus in both school districts.
Chicken Suqqar is basically meat and veggies, Somali style. It was such a big hit at St. Paul School District’s Somali Parent Advisory Council meeting that they released the recipe for home use! I thought you might like to try it! I suggest a Brown Basmati rice under the mixture, I used boxed broth instead of chicken base and reduced it with chicken breast then removed and diced the chicken, added it back in and then followed the Chicken Suqqar directions. I also chose fresh carrots. You can do it anyway you like because this dish very versatile.
By the way, the school nutrition department where your kids go to school would be more than happy to have you as a guest to try the food being served. Just go to the district website and click on the Food and Nutrition Department. My experience has been that they want you to share their sense of pride in the local delicious diversity that they serve as a part of your community.
When you were a kid in school you probably didn’t give much thought to learning about your future career from lunch ladies-which by the way now includes lunch men and even chefs! And I’d be willing to bet that your school district didn’t have a culinary program either. Times have changed.
This is Culinary Specialist Chef Ron Jones with Esteban Gonzales of the student-driven taco recipe team at Greenville County School District, GCSD.
I recently returned from another stop on the School Nutrition Guru world tour and I’ve got to tell you they just rocked the cafeteria at Mauldin Middle in Upstate South Carolina at Greenville County Schools.
The day started with a visit to GCSD Nutrition offices, where I saw a familiar sight when I walked into Director Joe Urban’s office. He’s a true media wiz and grabs pics and video whenever he can that show the pride he has in this awesome district.
Then we drove to Mauldin Middle to meet the student team that had the winning recipe in the district. I felt fortunate I was able to spend some time with them. From left to right: Hunter Criswell, Esteban Gonzalez, SND Joe Urban, and Michael Harmon.
The first thing the team checked were the conversions to school level preparation of the taco ingredients. As an example, the student design team’s original taco featured red onions pickled in red wine vinegar. The school version switched to white vinegar.
Then the first taste test by the team. They agreed the tacos needed a replacement tortilla and a change was made and tested once more. Then on to the lunch rush!
This is the amazing, energetic Vicki Thompson, Cafeteria Manager at Mauldin Middle. Just ahead of lunch each day she holds a pep rally with her team right before the bell. It’s incredible to watch. She has a constant smile and she and the staff LOVE their students!
This next part was really cool! Chef Ron grabbed the recipe team members and had them help build a balanced complete tray as it might look when the tacos will be added to the GCSD menu cycle.
Word gets around fast when just one kid says “free tacos!” The open hands below didn’t hear about it until they got to their tables with their trays which they promptly left to come back for a sample.
Why not become a friend and fan of Greenville County Schools Food and Nutrition Services Facebook page? You’ll see trends being set and breakthroughs happening. Just recently GCSD made the top ten list on the Food Research and Action Center’s 2016 Scorecard!! It’s not just about School Lunch, read about #schoolbreakfast too!
You can also watch a short video about Greenville County SC’s newest addition to their lunch menu.
As a School Nutrition Guru, it’s really important for me to stay on top of the trends, standards, and challenges that affect school foodservice professionals everywhere, and the Georgia School Nutrition Association’s Equipment Academy is one of my GO-TO sources!
Unique to Georgia, the Equipment Academy takes place in Perry, GA, during non-NAFEM years. NAFEM is the National Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, and their bi-annual event showcases foodservice equipment from more than 500 manufacturers.
The Equipment Academy concept is a bit like a scaled-downed NAFEM Show with a school foodservice focus. Five equipment dealers are chosen to represent learning classrooms, and manufacturer’s representatives (similar to brokers) are there to represent the foodservice factories that fit the criteria. School foodservice operators come from all over the state to see what innovations they might bring to their districts, from temperature management systems to fabulous ovens, like Winston’s CAT522 shown here in the CITISCO Dealer booth.
The Academy offers two and a half days of intense learning about what might really make running school cafeteria programs more efficient. Here are Candice Sisson and Emily Hanlin, School Nutrition Directors in Fannin and Douglas Counties, respectively.
We at Winston have had a long partnership with Charles Pace and Associates, our Manufacturer’s Reps for Georgia, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle. Pictured below are Chuck (right) and Chris (left) Pace, with Winston’s Southern US Regional, Corey Ainsworth (center). This was a milestone for Corey as it was his first Equipment Academy, and he told me he loved it!
You know me – I love to take a selfie with people I’ve worked with for a while. This is James Camacho of Camacho and Associates. James’ design consultancy builds awesome schools and does fabulous remodels. He came to the Equipment Academy specifically to teach a class on equipment specification for school kitchens. It was great to see and have him there. When we took this shot, we were enjoying Thursday evening’s festivities which included great food and drinks prepared by us all.
The Equipment Academy would be extremely beneficial for any of the State Nutrition Associations, and I heard a rumor that Mississippi may be next. We’ll definitely keep you posted!!
For more information about the complete line of CVap products, please visit our website at http://www.winstonindustries.com
Lately there’s been a lot of talk about what’s being served in school cafeterias around the country. Take it from me, the best way to find out what’s being plated in K-12 is to actually go to the schools and have lunch yourself. I work with schools around the U.S., and let me tell you there is some wonderful food around the country with creative ways of serving happening every day!
I suppose you could give an example based on new regulations that are taking place. But really those healthier options, even before the new regulations, have been putting school foodservice at the forefront of tasty recipes from one of the most demanding groups of customers there is – your kids.
The K-12 market segment food manufacturers have done a marvelous job with reformulating and reinventing a lot of the tasty treats your kid’s love to eat. Add in scratch cooking that’s being done in many of the nation’s schools and well, you’ve got some great recipes for healthy well fed students that get kids ready to learn.
So here’s my challenge to you. Would you try a dynamic and delicious made from scratch school food recipe at your next outdoor cookout?
Believe me when the side dish is Tantalizing and Tasty Ranchero Beans from a district like Brantley County Schools in Georgia, you can’t go wrong.
Here’s what I did and I’ll show you how. I took the original bulk recipe from School Nutrition Director Laura Lynn’s Brantley County School District and honed it down for a home gathering with family. I’m sharing the original with you along with my version.
Number of Portions: 43
Size of Portions: ½ cup
CAT509 – CVap Thermalizer
HA4522 – CVap Holding Cabinet
1 cup, 8 fl oz water
2 tsp low sodium ham base
1 #10 can/18.5 ct/.5 cup beans, canned, drained, rinsed
1 can #10 tomatoes, diced, canned
1 cup frozen diced onions
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp cumin, ground
1 tbsp salt, table
1 tsp pepper, black
¼ cup mild banana pepper rings
Pre-heat your CVap Thermalizer by pressing Channel 6.
Place can of tomatoes, drained beans and onions in a 2” deep hotel pan. Add 1 cup of warm water mixed with the ham base. Add Italian seasoning, cumin, salt and black pepper. Mix well and place pepper rings on top. Once it’s pre-heated, place in the CAT509 and cook for 30 minutes. Then place in HA4522 Holding Cabinet with a food temperature of 155 degrees and a food texture of +10 degrees until ready to serve. Serve students with #8 scoop or ½ spoodle.
Home Style Version
½ cup of water
¼ tsp of low sodium ham base (I used Better Than Bouillon brand)
2 cans 15.5 oz unseasoned pinto beans drained, rinsed
2 cans 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
¼ cup frozen diced onions (I used Kroger brand)
¼ tsp Italian seasoning (I used McCormick brand)
¼ tsp of cumin
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
6 or 8 mild banana pepper rings
Mix all of the ingredients together in a half size aluminum hotel pan and then use a CVap CAC503 Cook and Hold set to 90+9 for 30 minutes on high yield so it will drop into an automatic hold of 150 following the heat cycle to warm.
If you don’t have one at home…
Combine the ingredients in a gallon or so pot, reserve the mild banana rings for topping. Heat on medium on top of the stove, covered until warm, then put the banana pepper rings on top for serving.
The adults loved it and Penelope asked for more. Then the big reveal… I told them it was school food!
This made Penelope ready for kindergarten immediately!
Check out this wonderful dish and try it at home. Take heart in knowing that schools all over America are serving great dishes like this to your children which have been cooked fresh in Winston Thermalizers and held at just cooked quality in Winston Holding Cabinets with the one and only CVap technology.
I am a third-generation European transplant in America with a rich family history of amazing Eastern European food.
My grandfather, Toby Kritzer, was from a small border town between Poland and Austria called Nowy Sancz. He had a large family of seven brothers, and they were all raised learning the art of Austrian pastries and breads. They came to America in the early 1900s and each operated a successful bakery in Cleveland, Ohio, while my grandfather drove the delivery truck for the entire operation. When the bakeries were sold off in the early 1950s, my grandfather helped start a small kosher chicken store front in the Hough area near downtown Cleveland. Needless to say, chicken was plentiful for my family!
In fact, my grandmother always had boiled chicken in her refrigerator. Always. And whenever I went to visit, the first thing she offered me – before I could even sit down – was a piece of that boiled chicken. Not the most appealing treat to offer a seven-year-old boy.
But when it came to her Hungarian roast chicken – now that was a different story altogether! Although my grandmother was from Bucharest, Romania, she made fantastic Hungarian food, and that roast chicken was the best I ever had growing up. I learned to make it myself, but it was just never as good as hers. The aroma and the flavor are still among my fondest childhood kitchen memories.
When I came to work with the great people at Winston, however, I had a chance to stretch my training experience a bit and convert my grandmother’s Hungarian roast chicken recipe for the CVap Cook and Hold Oven. Between you and me, after just two attempts, I feel like I came up with a moister match than my grandmother’s rotisserie style of browning. Today I am sharing it with you and I do hope you try it yourself. Please let me know what you think!
My Romanian Grandmother’s Hungarian Roast Chicken
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1-2 teaspoon garlic salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 ½-pound roasting chicken brined overnight
- Turn on CVap Cook and Hold Oven and set doneness at 200 and browning on 9.
- Mix together the paprika, garlic salt and pepper and spread evenly over the entire surface of the chicken. You can mix in a good olive oil for a moist rub.
- Place the chicken on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. The rack is essential so the entire chicken gets some texture.
- Roast the chicken with the Constant Cook button on for 2 ½ hours or until the internal temperature has reached 165 and the juices run clear.
- Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before carving.
If you’re looking for the perfect accompaniment to this delicious chicken, I recommend something my grandmother frequently served: Jewish kasha varnishkes. Click here for a recipe you can try.