Whole grain-rich offerings are a hit at Corpus Christi ISD.
Students at Corpus Christi ISD enjoy whole grain-rich items “made from scratch” daily in the central bakery. Food Services Director Jody Houston says the district tried to mix their own flour blend from whole and enriched wheat flours, but the USDA Foods 60/40 white whole wheat flour blend produced a superior product that the students really enjoy. The district uses the USDA Foods 60/40 flour blend to make their popular dinner rolls (show in photo, Whole Grain Roll recipe, 1 roll credits as 1.25 oz. eq. whole grain) and French bread (Whole Grain French Bread recipe, 1 slice credits as 3.25 oz. eq. whole grain when cut into 12 slices per loaf). The district also substitutes USDA Foods dried cranberries for raisins in the whole grain granola they make using USDA’s standardized Granola recipe.
Demonstrate a Commitment to Reducing Food Waste
Instead of tossing food scraps into the garbage, consider starting a composting program. Compost is a nutrient-rich organic material that can be added to school gardens in order to give the soil a boost. Local farmers may also be interested in building composting partnerships for their farming operations. Hays CISD piloted a composting program in School Year (SY) 2010-2011 and it was successfully expanded to all 20 campuses, as well as the Nutrition Office, in SY 2012-2013. Food scraps are diverted into a composting bin during food preparation and then collected by a company that creates premium quality compost for school gardens, lawns, farms and more.
Schools can Reduce, Recover and Recycle Food Waste
Schools should use thoughtful menu planning and strategic meal production practices in order to minimize overproduction and reduce food waste. One tool to assist in thoughtful menu planning is food production records. Past records can be used to forecast the number of servings to plan for future service dates. A method to assist in strategic meal production is batch cooking. Batch cooking allows production staff to prepare a more accurate amount of food based on student demand. On the occasions where excess food does exist, schools are encouraged to divert food waste from landfills by implementing recovery and recycling programs. The USDA infographic shown here offers easy and inexpensive suggestions to reduce, recover and recycle food waste in schools. School districts should contact their local health department for regulations on recovering and donating of food items.
With the first sodium targets now in effect, salt free seasonings are a fantastic way to enhance the flavor of school meals without adding fat, calories or salt. Herb and spice blends can be used in recipes during production, as well as provided during meal service alongside condiments. Manor ISD gives students control by offering the following 5 different salt free flavoring options (shown in photo) to high school students, after the point of sale:
- Mexican seasoning
- Garlic and herb seasoning
- Red pepper flakes
- Mrs. Dash seasoning
- Cajun seasoning
The shakers were so well received in SY 2013-14 that these offerings will be expanded to middle school students in SY 2014-15. Click on Adding Herbs to Your Culinary Toolbox, for the flavor profiles of 11 common herbs, as well as tips for herb gardening, drying and storing.
Students have a tendency to “eat with their eyes” first. So paying close attention to knife cuts of fruits and vegetables during preparation is of critical importance. Culinary Trainer at Allen ISD Chef John Lara says, “(The) key to promoting fresh vegetables are the different styles of cuts prepared by our staff using knife skills or using the food processor to ensure all cuts are precise to compliment the entrée.” When referring to the importance of color, Chef Lara advises, “Arranging the natural colors of the fruits and vegetables also contributes to eye appeal.”
Optimize Oven-Cooked Food
Ensure that foods are cooked and browned, glazed or crisped properly to enhance visual appeal and produce desirable textures. Make sure that oven temperatures are calibrated and checked by using working oven thermometers. For example, if breads that are to be cooked at 350°F are coming out of the oven unevenly browned, over cooked or under cooked, an oven thermometer may show that the oven temperature is actually above or below 350°F. This would prompt the oven to be properly calibrated in order to cook all foods appropriately. El Paso ISD ensures that foods are properly browned and crisped by seasoning and cooking chicken that has been thawed from frozen.
Chef Juan Torrez at Manor ISD says one trick to keep the color of cooked vegetables vibrant on the line is time management. Plan to cook vegetables towards the end of meal production and right before service on the line for Just-in-Time service. If you are holding cooked vegetables in a warmer before service, make sure the warmer is not set too high or too low for the vegetables to maintain their vibrant color and quality. Another trick to keep the colors of cooked vegetables bright is to steam them or briefly blanch them in boiling water. Manor ISD blanches frozen green beans to keep them fresh looking and fresh tasting (shown in photo above).