I know there are schools that cook meals from scratch in their own kitchens. Last week, I finally saw such a school first-hand. Laura De Santis, Nutrition Director at the Marblehead Community Charter Public School in Marblehead, MA let me spend a day with her and her staff.
The day’s lunch menu: chicken and veggie curry over rice and lentils. Included in the price of lunch are the salad bar and dessert, today, a banana and blueberry cake. Did I mention that the curry did not come out of a can, nor was it reconstituted from a flavor packet, but the kitchen staff made it using real, raw ingredients? Same goes for the dessert made with whole grain oats and fresh blueberries.
I asked Laura, “What’s the best way to get kids to buy into the lunch program?” The students, 4th – 8th graders, would happily eat pepperoni pizza, chicken nuggets, and fries for every meal, so getting them excited about healthier foods is a challenge. Although Laura often gives out samples of foods to students who are apprehensive about trying something new, the integration of the kitchen and food in the school community fosters trust in the food and open-mindedness not often seen in schools.
Nutrition Director, Laura DeSantis, and volunteer, David Stein
Out of a French cooking class Laura taught came a French school lunch complete with crepes, Nicoise salad, and ratatouille. When students read the book “Three Cups of Tea,” teachers worked with Laura to make a Pakistani curry, similar to the one I enjoyed during my visit, and chai tea for lunch. This interplay of food and curriculum gives students a context for appreciating food and culture.
The cafeteria isn’t just a place where kids shovel food in their mouths, it’s a vibrant part of the school community. Parents volunteer in the kitchen, and the business manager helps serve meals. After lunch, students do the bulk of the cleaning: they wash the dishes, tables, salad bar, and main meal line! Need I say more?
A student clearing ice out of the salad bar