The next frontier in school lunch

By Staff
Posted 6/22/10

     COMMERCE CITY — “This is new, this is exciting,” said Cindy Veney, manager of nutrition services for Adams 14 schools, as she surveyed the large table of food in …

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The next frontier in school lunch


     COMMERCE CITY — “This is new, this is exciting,” said Cindy Veney, manager of nutrition services for Adams 14 schools, as she surveyed the large table of food in front her. “I’m very excited to take this back to our students.”

    Veney was one of the participants in LiveWell Colorado’s School Chef Culinary Boot Camp last week at Adams City High School in Commerce City. This boot camp was the first in a series of four training courses across the state designed to teach nutrition directors and cafeteria staff how to prepare made-from-scratch meals using healthy ingredients. The boot camps are free and offered to school districts with more than 5,000 students and at least 40 percent of the student population qualifying for free or reduced lunches.

    “I think this has been wonderful,” Veney said Thursday. “It’s been great to see how easy it is to make and how healthy it is for the kids.”

    This is Veney’s first year with Adams 14, but she’s been in food services for 17 years. She now is in charge of a staff of 53 throughout the district. During the boot camp, she and her staff learned a number of recipes and healthier variations of common school lunch favorites including pizza and mac and cheese. She said that in addition to tasting good and being healthier for the students, the recipes she learned at the boot camp would likely cost less to make and take less time than traditional recipes.

    “This is the culmination of four days of culinary training,” said Andrea Martin, one of two chefs who designed the program, pointing to the food prepared by the boot camp’s students Thursday. “We have 75 feet of food for you today.”

    “We developed this program to change the face of school food,” Martin said. “We want them to experience what amazing, healthy food you can make.”

    Adams 14 Board of Education President Jeannette Lewis said the school district made an effort to make school lunch healthier in recent years, bringing in more fresh fruits and veggies, working with local farmers and even doing away with chocolate milk. She sees her district’s involvement in the boot camps as just one more step toward healthier kids.

    “I’m ecstatic about it,” she said. “This has been my passion forever, and it is so desperately needed. If you feed the body with good food, kids learn better. Our kids are ready for it.”

    Venita Currie is program director for LiveWell Colorado, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the soaring rates of obesity.

    “The goal is to teach schools how to make made-from-scratch meals that taste good,” she said. “If they’re not good, students aren’t going to eat them.”

    In addition to the Commerce City boot camp, in June and July, LiveWell Colorado will host three additional boot camps: Colorado Springs, Montrose and Aurora. At the boot camp, food service directors and/or nutrition directors participate in a free five-day, hands-on training focusing on the fundamentals of scratch-cooking as well as recipe and menu development, universal breakfast strategies and commodities ordering. Each participating district will receive a donation of $1,000 for minor equipment to begin implementing techniques learned at the culinary boot camp.

    Maren Stewart, president of LiveWell Colorado, said she was encouraged by the enthusiasm displayed by the students at the Commerce City boot camp.

    “It is exciting and energizing and rewarding and so promising,” she said. “This is going to change the way these people work and think.

    “We hope that some day, all schools can have this information,” she added. “Our goal is for healthy eating and active living to be available to everyone.”

    The boot camps are coordinated by LiveWell Colorado and funded by the Colorado Health Foundation as well as a federal grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act facilitated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Colorado Physical Activity and Nutrition Program.


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