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!
I was recently scheduled to do a demo on one of our CVap® Retherm Ovens at the Tift County School District in Georgia. I was looking at their menus for that day to see what we would be cooking when I saw the words: NO SCHOOL/PARENT/TEACHER CONFERENCE. A frightening thought entered my mind that no staff would be there and we would need to reschedule. Actually, my first thought was, YES! No School!, a juvenile reflex, I guess. So I sent a note to Kogi, one of the Assistants to the Director, and asked if they would be in that day. “Yes,” she said, “it’s a student holiday, but still a work day.” Awesome, not only will they be in, but I’ll have their complete attention while doing my demo. But, will they be in a bad mood? Not these lunch ladies!
When I walked in the kitchen, it was humming. Every staff member was busy cleaning and organizing. I announced my arrival to the manager, and she gathered her flock around the CVap Retherm Oven for my demo. And just as I had thought, I got their complete attention. They were engaged, asking questions, even had smiles on their faces. We cooked our frozen pizzas on Channel 3 for about 12 minutes and they came out great. The ladies ate and we talked some more, but then they went right back to the deep clean, smiles still on their faces. I was borderline astonished. Not only are these ladies doing the job most people hate (imagine deep cleaning your kitchen and multiply it by 10), but they also have to listen to me, the company gasbag, trying to tell them how to cook in our oven. But, not these lunch ladies!
A little background on what lunchroom staffs do each day. Nationwide, these workers prepare and serve over 30 million lunches and 14 million breakfasts daily. Some even provide meals at night and through the summer for their communities. They greet rambunctious kids with a smile and perhaps the only nourishment they will receive that day. Then they clean and scrub and, for a lot of them, it’s off to the next job. Let’s face it, it’s not the most glamorous in the world and it’s certainly not the highest paying. Many of them have a second occupation and they are most likely the ones cooking and cleaning at home. It’s a thankless job and it would’ve been so easy for the staff at 8th Street Middle School to mail it in and be crabby, thinking about what they could’ve been doing had they not been at work. But, not today. Not these lunch ladies!
Remember to tell your lunch staff thanks for the delicious food they prepare and all the hard work they do for you each day. Trust me, they will appreciate it more than you know!
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, FL., 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 the CVap man from Winston sent you!
But what makes this story uniquely American is how we adopt foods that lean toward the countries 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.
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 an at 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…
I then served this to friends and family, including my two year old granddaughter Penelope (minus the mild banana pepper rings) and asked them all what they thought.
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.