The inaugural workshop of Discover. Cook. Nourish.the how and why of whole foods cooking for school food service workers, created by Cookus Interruptus (that’s us!), takes place this Saturday, March 5th . This will be the first of many workshops as the grant executors hope to schedule at least 35 this year. The workshop instructors are trained, the informative, colorful power point slide shows are loaded on laptops and jumpdrives, the 100-page+ accompanying workbook full of practical information, research and recipes has been printed a put into binders – we are ready, set, go.
Participants at the workshop will begin the morning by playing an improvisational theater game called Yes And. The game was invented to help improvisational theater actors accept offers on stage. For example, if a scene begins and actor #1 says ”Hey honey, do you have everything packed for our trip” – there is a clear offer. The offer being that the two actors are related in some way, the activity is packing, and the future promises a trip of some sort. Let’s say that actor #2 enters this scene and says, “I don’t want to take a trip. I have work to do.” Instantly the scene falls flat. Forward motion stops. Whereas if the actor had responded by saying, “Yes and I am so excited that we are part of the first ever Vacation to Mars tour.” – well, now you have a scene. Wonderful possibilities exist. The life of the scene moves forward.
This game is apropos for any encounter where people are meeting to create solutions or bring forth new plans. Consider how often we routinely say, “That won’t work.” to a new idea. When we do, the flow stops. The person offering the new idea is shut down.
Our hope is that playing the Yes And game will help the Discover. Cook. Nourish participants open to possibility. The game encourages conscious thinking about the pat responses “that won’t work, because”, or “yes, but”, or flat out ‘no” when offered a new idea. By setting this tone for the workshops, we hope to invoke receptivity for a whole new look to their own dinner plate. And eventually, with support, there could be a whole new look to what’s being served in the school cafeteria.
Try an experiment. Say “Yes, and…”, or “Of course”, to seemingly impossible ideas offered by a friend, spouse or a co-worker, even if you don’t believe them. Try it! Amidst the creative “non-sense” that emerges, you may discover a simple, very do-able solution that’s been lurking there all along. They begin to appear when we retire the word “no” from habitual use.
About the CPPW Grant:
In spring 2010, Public Health - Seattle & King County was awarded two highly-competitive federal stimulus grants to address the leading causes of death in our region as part of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW). CPPW funds policy, systems and environmental changes that support residents in making healthier choices to reduce obesity and tobacco use; the main contributors to premature illness, death, and health care costs locally and nationally. The grant does not fund direct service, but instead supports projects like the creation of healthier food environments and spaces to be physically active.
Auburn School District Child Nutrition Services Department is coordinating the development of the Food Service Certificate Program - Discover. Cook. Nourish. created by Cookus Interruptus. Food service staff (150) in King County will gain skills and learn new recipes related to whole foods preparation.
I spoke with someone in the local media this week about the “Communities Putting Prevention to Work” (CPPW) grant workshops: Discover. Cook. Nourish. that I am proud to be working on. The reporter asked about the focus of the workshops and I explained that we were attempting to affect the beliefs of the individual school food service worker as a first step. The workshop materials clearly outlines the need for changing how we eat and then offers ample lessons and resources on “how to”. We cover popular food terminology, whole grain and bean cookery, how to balance meals, how to shop for the best quality and give hands –on cooking lessons using dozens of recipes. By getting these individuals jazzed about better health via good food, they may develop a passion for feeding themselves and their family better.
The reporter, playing devil’s advocate, wondered how these workshops were going to help. If grant money is awarded to teach school food service workers about serving better food, parents want to see better food on their child’s lunch tray. PDQ! Why waste precious grant money on changing the school food service worker’s dinner plate?
I stood my ground. Because post workshop, if a food service manager wants to bring in more food from local vendors, the workers who took the workshops will be in the “heck yea” camp. Sign up the their school for the farm-to-school program? The answer is more likely to be YES and how can I help. If serving more whole grains in the menu rotation becomes part of the “more fiber” rule from the government, these foods won’t be unfamiliar. In fact, the folks who have taken the workshop will know how to make a variety of whole grains taste fantastic. Maybe they’ll be psyched enough to host an information session for the parents at their school? Or a cooking class?
Starting with the individual is exactly where change begins. Each parent, each child, each school food service worker has to desire similar changes if school lunch food is going to improve. I threw the question back to her. If we don’t shift the consciousness of the school food service worker, then who would you start with? Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is emotionally charged, confrontational and nationally televised. His sweeping school lunch makeover is one approach, lobbying for better school lunch policies in D.C. is another. Two Angry Moms made a movie to raise consciousness and evoke change. I feel that the problem has to be confronted from every point of entry. Dr. Susan Rubin of Better School Food has a “to do” list for parents and school food service directors to follow. What’s your take on the issue. Where does changing the way we feed children begin for you?
The work for the CPPW (Communities Putting Prevention to Work) grant project is humming along. My colleague, Carol White, and I have five power points and 2/3 of the workbook completed for the ensuing spring and summer workshops (hooray!) titled “Discover. Cook. Nourish: the why and how of whole foods cooking for school food service staff”
A challenge arose in portraying the USDA guidelines in the power point on balanced meals - the crazy quilt pyramid with the android running up the side of it? The one where figuring out which colored stripe means what takes some wild guessing, a magnifying glass or both. We look up close and personal at this chart during my class at Bastyr. The two Triscuits prominently displayed beneath the orange stripe and the quart of milk, pint of milk, and (in case you didn’t get it) glass of milk, dancing within the blue stripe are noteworthy. If you believe these were artistic choices, pull your head out of the Nabisco box.
In the slide for the workshops I chose the soft word “compromised” in describing the pyramid. Not polite to admonish rules for which there are no alternatives. Still, it’s good to add the reminder that the regulations put forth by the USDA are loaded with political punch and financial headlocks.
This morning I read Marion Nestle’s food politics blog where she outlined her 2011 predictions. Apparently a new pictorial USDA food guideline is ready for launch. Ms. Nestle says, “The 2005 pyramid’s rainbow stripes proved impossible to teach and useless to anyone without a computer. I’ve heard a rumor that I will love the new design. I’m skeptical. ”
Amen. Impossible to teach are the right words. How one would construct a balanced meal by staring at the stripes with the product menagerie spilling out of the bottom is beyond me. Too many interest groups spoiled the broth?
Cookus Interruptus has begun work on the CPPW (Communities Putting Prevention to Work) grant creating workshops to train school food service workers on the wonders of whole foods cooking. Margaret Dam RD, Child Nutrition Coordinator for Auburn School District is overseeing the grant. Carol White, MS, RD is busy writing sections of the workbook needed for the project and we have lined up a stellar group of teachers to give the workshops.
As I work on this project, I am always mindful of how handcuffed the system is by lack of funds. In King County the budget for school lunch is about $2.75 per child per lunch. About 50% of that goes to labor leaving only around $1.37 for food. But lack of funding doesn’t excuse everything.
The French have a different take on school lunch: ” The variety on the menus is astonishing: no single meal is repeated over the 32 school days in the period, and every meal includes an hors d’oeuvre, salad, main course, cheese plate and dessert.” Mary Brighton is a US mom living in Paris who writes the blog brightonyourhealth. She’s been comparing French school lunches to a fare served at a school in New Jersey for a number of days. Here’s a sample from Mary’s blog: Toms River, NJ
Choice of 1 main dish, 2 sides and served with a half pint of milk
Baked Ziti with Meatballs or Macaroni and Cheese
Potato Wedges and Applesauce
Served with slices of baguette and water
Turkey Pieces with Sweet and Sour Sauce
Rice with Diced Vegetables “Brunoise”
Creamy Sheep Cheese and an Apple
You might think that they have a great deal more $ to spend on each school lunch. According to a recent video on CBS news (worth a watch) about $5 per child is budgeted in Parisian schools, but in southern France one chef is creating gourmet feasts for ½ that – an amount comparable to King County.
The French feel it is important to train young children to appreciate good food. Gourmet lunches made from fresh food begin in nursery school. Lunch time in a French school is generally longer than in the US so that the children can eat at a leisurely pace and enjoy the company of their friends. Imagine that.
Think about all the labor that goes into making the ingredients that food manufacturers use. You can’t make Cheddar Flavored Mozarella Cheese Substitute in your kitchen. Even the many ingredients that make up the highly processed “dough conditioner” are highly processed.
What is this? Anyone want to take a guess? (Hint: it’s something that is regularly served in the school lunch program. No I’m not kidding)
Anybody watch this last night at 10 pm on ABC? What did you think? Man, the lunch ladies hated him. Loved their visors.
Jamie’s pretty brave. He left no strawberry milk or chicken nugget unturned. The close up of the list ingredients of some of the “food” the school (all schools!) serves everyday to children is just what you’d expect but choose to ignore. I liked that the process didn’t resolve happy in the first episode. Changing what we feed our kids at school will take time, money and better politics. A miracle that the ugly truth of school lunch is being addressed on national television - and not cable!
The American Dairy Association (ADA) has had its udders rooted in the USDA’s dietary recommendations for many decades. A week ago I was going over the history of the USDA’s colorful charts depicting what Americans are supposed to eat. One of my favorites, penned in 1943, gives us the Seven Food Groups. Milk has its own group, so does Butter. But dairy finds its way into the Meat Cheese Fish Poultry group and surprisingly shows up in the Cereal and Bread group too where the claim is that “Added milk improves nutritional values”. Wow. Four out of seven. Impressive. If you believe that is an accident, or meant to improve health, think again. Politics abound as nutrition maven Marion Nestle is quick to write a tome on (Food Politics). All this to remind you of the powerful, government-backed organization dairy farmers have profited from for many many moons.
This week the ADA announced its “Raise Your Hands for Chocolate Milk” campaign in an effort to promote school sales of sugary flavored milks. They claim that if kids skip chocolate milk, they will choose fruit juice or soda and miss out on all those important nutrients that they are not getting in their macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, ice cream, smoothies and yo-yo yogurt cups. How much dairy does a child need? Or more precisely – how much calcium?
Cow’s milk is designed to quadruple a calf’s bone structure in six months. At no point in a human’s life do we lay down that much bone. Yet recommendations from the nutrition party line would have us believe that we can never eat enough. The United States has one of the highest intakes of calcium in the world and simultaneously one of the highest rates of osteoporosis. What gives?
I’m not anti-milk, not at all anti-dairy but I’m strongly in the court of “more is not better.” Dairy foods can be difficult for a lot of people to digest. Many kids have dairy allergies or dairy sensitivities. Traditional wisdom teaches us that culturing dairy (adding probiotics or allowing it to sour) breaks down the pesky lactose and casein that many people to have trouble digesting past the age of weaning. Shouldn’t we make sure that each child is sporting a healthy digestive system by getting enough fiber, vitamins, minerals and probiotics before we coerce them to raise their hands for chocolate milk?
Being pro or con chocolate milk once again loses sight of the common sense big picture. Why fill kids up on sugar and milk and leave no room for the nutrients they are NOT getting enough of on their school lunch tray?
Chef Jamie Oliver gets incensed by what we feed our kids for lunch. Worth watching. Definitely worth showing your kids, especially if they have a penchant for chicken nuggets. It ends abruptly. Go to You Tube to watch part 2. If you’re incensed too, join Dr. Susan Rubin in her Better School Food movement.
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