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28 February . 2011

The Challenge Continues - Chatham County Schools Chef Challenge

by Shannon McSwiney


Posh chefs, school lunch – how does this all come together you ask? It's a collaboration of talents one might say...

The Chatham County Schools, like all school systems, must provide our kids with healthy, nutritious choices for lunch -- all under strict regulations and guidance of the USDA. There are cost 'allowances' per student, only certain ingredients can be used, food prep can be restricted due to workforce availability and school equipment, even food safety – you name it the roadblocks are there. These constraints can, at times, lead to perceived undesirable choices for our students and the need for our food service staff to stick with the 'tried and true' nuggets, fries, pizza, nachos...

Let’s face it, that’s just what kids like…

But did you know even these choices are prepared in a more desirable method (rather than deep frying)? They are baked. Snack foods such as chips and cookies are mandated to certain nutrient content: chips must be of the baked variety and cookies must be low fat and whole grain. Fruits are readily available, although sadly students may not be inclined to choose an apple over a cookie and that can lead to food waste – a veritable balancing act of supply versus demand. And always at the forefront of nearly every business decision (whether public or private) in the economy of budget constraints/cuts.

Even with these restrictions, the Chatham County School System still sees a 64% average participation level of school lunch purchases. Would they like to increase that percentage? Absolutely! And so goes the challenge to bring to light the GREAT things that are happening with the school lunch program as the challenge grows near, introduce students to great choices that are actually GOOD for them (and tasty too), and provide prep methods for the cafeteria staff that streamline their processes all the while enhancing food selections for our children.

Stick with us throughout the blog series for more insight into the school lunch program and the challenge. There will be some opportunities for the students to interact with the chefs. Of course we want them to purchase lunch and vote on their favorite new option that will eventually become a mainstay on the lunch menu. We will also offer an opportunity for the parent's and community to sample the dishes.

Makes you feel like a kid again doesn't it? Be the judge soon!


tags: Schools

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