They learned that some lemon and salt and pepper could make broccoli more palatable and that cauliflower seasoned like buffalo wings might make kids more likely to eat it.
Nine cafeteria workers in Franklin attended the Culinary Skills for A+ School Meals in Columbus this summer.
In a week, they learned tips and tricks from chefs and nutritionists about how they could prepare the food they make for thousands of kids daily more nutritious and appetizing. Cafeteria workers in Franklin schools have attended the workshop for the past two years. School districts were not charged tuition for the workers they sent.
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Jill Overton, food services director, wanted her workers to attend so they could find a way to make meals tastier and more nutritious. Her overall goal is to move cafeteria cooking in Franklin schools away from using processed foods and more toward workers building dishes using organic and locally grown ingredients in recipes they have learned at the school, said Overton.
“Anytime you can up our school level, it is a good thing,” she said.
One of the things workers learned was how to revamp and make sauces for vegetables that might make more students eat the vegetables they are required to put on their tray.
Students should expect a hummus or black bean salsa recipe to replace the prepackaged ranch dressing that was served before, said Amy Marguglio, a cafeteria worker at Custer Baker Intermediate School.
They will also tinker with recipes to see how they can add in different grains into their recipes, such as quinoa and couscous.
“(They taught us) things you never would have thought to try,” she said.
Vegetables are the most thrown away food item in Franklin cafeterias, workers said.
Implementing new recipes will not cost the school district more, since most of the new recipes include ingredients that most of the cafeteria kitchens already have, Overton said.
Teachers at the institute taught the cafeteria workers how they could best use existing spices they have to bring out the flavor in the foods they were already making. For example, broccoli served in Franklin schools will be spritzed with lemon juice and further flavored with salt and pepper, versus cafeteria workers putting out a tray of plain, steamed broccoli.
“There are more options than just ranch and carrots,” said Kristine Gott, a cafeteria worker at Northwood Elementary School.
Recipes the workers learned at the institute have already been added to the yearly lunch menu at Custer Baker Intermediate School. New recipes, such as orange glazed baby carrots, roasted summer squash, fiesta corn and cowboy beans are expected to be at all Franklin schools by the end of the school year, Overton said.
The idea of introducing them at the intermediate school first is because those students are young enough to develop better eating habits and multiple workers who attended the institute were from the intermediate school.
“If we can get it introduced to them early, they can carry it through life,” Overton said.
Students seem eager to try new foods and workers wanted to find a way to introduce new foods to some of their students, who may get their most nutritious meal at school, workers said.
“It’s trying to get them to open up to new foods with different flavors,” said Jennifer Barnett, a cafeteria worker at Webb Elementary School.