Friday, November 18, 2016

Chef's Tasting Table Day 1 // The Project Produce Grant Hits West Oak School's Home Plate

Today begins a series of 11 blog posts to capture the impact of the Chef Ann Foundation's Project Produce Grant in West Oak School. I teamed up with Sue Kruckman (District 76 Wellness Chair and West Oak School Nurse) and Tracy Zeman (District 76 Director of Student Services) to brainstorm the 11 "Chef's Tasting Table" lunchroom events being held through May.

You know what they say, "Rome was not created in a day."

It's fun looking back to the start of my Food Revolution in 2012 when I was simply dreaming of volunteering in the schools, not at all sure of HOW, IF or WHERE to begin...

So far, 2016 has been like warm sunshine on my face! Thanks to an incredible D76 Wellness Committee and an enthusiastic and supportive school administration team!

Skoop and the Chef Ann Foundation Organization teamed up to launch the Project Produce Grant Program which awarded Diamond Lake District 76's West Oak School $2500 in funds to help give all students access to more fresh produce and food education during the school day.
Enjoy this picture diary of our first Chef's Tasting Table day!

Chef's Tasting Table Day 1 Menu: 

Organic Curly Kale
Organic Spinach
Organic Turnips
Organic Carrots

Chef Lindsey's Jam Jar Honey Mustard

1/4 - 1 c Plain organic yogurt (experiment with yogurt amount, add more to mellow it out!)
1/4 c Apple cider vinegar
1/4 c honey
1/4 c dijon mustard
1/4 tsp sea salt

Other than the sea salt, this is pretty much an equal parts recipe (it can very much be eyeballed!). Make as much or as little as you want. If you prefer the dressing to be less tangy, add less vinegar. If you want it sweeter, add more honey and yogurt. Be the boss of your dip! Place all ingredients into a jam jar and shake it up! Of course, you can mix it all up in a bowl too. Jam jars are fun to shake, create less mess and can go right into the fridge.

Here is the lovely mob around our "data collection" posters. We also offered fresh kale and spinach to be taken home as we want this tasting to spread to the students' family tables! I was astounded by how many kids lined up to take some home and inspire others to eat more greens.

SCHOOL CHALLENGE: We challenged each lunch period to make homemade jam jar recipes with their parents and share pictures with our school district's social media channels using the hashtags #D76Diamonds and #JamJarChallenge. The students who participate will be entered into a raffle drawing and get a chance at winning a jam jar with the recipe and dry ingredients to my homemade ranch dressing. YUM!

Thank you Ambassador Sara Lohrman (Stevenson High School) for teaming up with me!
You ROCK sister!

We also prepped a super easy (and a ton of kids wanted seconds!)...

Simple Raw Curly Kale Salad 

1 bunch de-ribbed curly kale (I demonstrated how to de-rib with your hands. No knives needed!)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 Lemons (only juice)
sea salt

You can do it... eyeball this one. Tear or rough chop the kale into small pieces. Drizzle a few tablespoons of oil onto the top of the leaves. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the leaves. Sprinkle sea salt over the top. Using clean hands, massage the kale until all of the dressing has been absorbed by the leaves. Taste it! Add a little more oil, lemon juice or salt until it tastes just right. Also, the longer this sits, the more relaxed the kale gets and the tastier it becomes!


A HUGE thank you goes out to Jen and Jeff from Prairie Wind Family Farm (Part of the Sandhill Family Farm Group) for providing the organic Kale, Spinach, Carrots and Turnips to our students! They did a ton of unexpected prep work for me (it was wonderful not to have to take off all the carrot and turnip greens!). The student's reactions were priceless when I told them the produce came from an organic farm just 8 miles away! Shock and awe!! 

INTRODUCING the Chef Ann Foundation Team!

Just a week prior to the tasting event, I traveled with my husband Chris out to Colorado to visit my sister Katie and family. Schedules matched up and I was able to travel out to the foundation's Boulder headquarters to meet with the team, to experience an amazing #realschoolfood lunch and to tour one of their school food production kitchens. 

BEST NACHO SALAD BAR EVER!!! I was super impressed by the "from scratch" cheese bechamel sauce, the antibiotic free beef (mixed with beans - who knew!?) and of course the ridiculous variety of toppings (Can I eat here everyday?) 

Everything was delicious, especially the Southwest quinoa salad! More please!

Meet the amazing District Manager Chef Brandy Dreibelbis! She has been working with Chef Ann Cooper since it all began here in the Boulder Valley School District 8 years ago. Brandy gave us a thorough tour of the kitchen facility and I was blown away by the details. The BVSD school lunch program serves 52 schools out of 3 school food production kitchens. They serve a whopping 13,000 meals a day! Sustainability, local food sourcing, food quality, recycling, food waste reduction and cost efficiency are of top priority.

I asked Brandy if there was a "revolt" when they stopped serving the high sugar, low nutrient dense, high selling fast food. So many districts have tried to change towards healthier options and then have gone back because the kids just don't eat it. Answer: When Chef Ann took over and began evolving the BVSD lunch program out of the "typical" highly processed school food, the program lost participants for a few years. However, in less than two years, they persevered, rebounded and are thriving in the scalable #realschoolfood model that stands today. Particpation numbers are through the ROOF.

On top of this, they also have a food truck (aka the Munchie Machine - read all about it here!) which provides the local High School another food option outside of the school cafeteria. Plus, BVSD & the foundation host the ever popular Junior Chef Competitions twice a year for the students.

Can I get a What What!?!?

My take away:
1. A profitable #realschoolfood model can be a goal whether you are an outside School Food Company or a school operating your own cooking kitchen.
2. It's tougher to do the higher your Free and Reduced Lunch percentage - So get creative in the lunchroom like we are.
2. It will take time.
3. The Chef Ann Foundation is here to help and inspire us ALL. Connect with them and start today.
4. Brainstorm, start small and the collective passion for taking care of our youngest generation's bodies & minds will come back to us.
5. The American "Food Patriots" are ready to buy lunches and increase school lunch participation IF food providers are able to:
  • Source well (meat and dairy sourced free of antibiotics and hormones)
  • Use clean ingredients (artificial color and preservative free) 
  • Cook from scratch (whether it be inside a school or in another kitchen).
School cafeterias are the biggest restaurants in town; They are filled with our most precious commodity. 

We can figure this out.

I am so proud to add our chef tasting table events to the story and to help impact over 400 students minds and palates this year.

Thank you Chef Ann Foundation!

This is the waterfall I imagined four years ago, and the H20 is starting to flow a little bit faster...

To the Mullies we go!