Monthly Archives: October 2019

What Will the School Lunch of the Future Look Like?

Quinoa, kale, Brussels sprouts, tamales, green smoothies. These are all foods you might find in a trendy restaurant … or on a lunch tray in your local school cafeteria.

School lunches are fast overcoming their stereotypical reputation as bland and uninspired through some creativity and innovation by school nutrition professionals. On this National School Lunch Week, let’s take a look toward the future.

If you’ve ever tried to concentrate on something when you’re really hungry, you’ll understand that students don’t perform at their best without a nutritious lunch, which they won’t eat unless it tastes good. Schools are committed to providing great food in their cafeterias, and it can be challenging to be innovative when there are so many considerations, including:

• Making it tasty for a wide range of food preferences
• Making it easy to eat in a short period of time
• Cost and budgetary concerns
• Regulations and nutrition standards
• Allergies and dietary restrictions
• Sourcing and availability
• Food safety, storage and logistics
• Limiting food waste

Schools and school districts may operate differently, yet they share the common goal of providing meals their students actually want and will eat. These meals fuel students with the needed nutrients to grow and think. Improving menus can take some creativity, and that’s why culinary training events have proven so popular over the past nine years in Oregon.

Jessica Visinsky, a Registered Dietitian and trained chef, travels the state to teach child nutrition professionals about new recipes, knife skills, menu requirements and strategies to promote healthy eating. The trainings are sponsored by the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council and the Oregon Department of Education Child Nutrition Programs, and are offered at no cost to the schools.

As a result, school nutrition professionals are preparing more scratch recipes, often from the Oregon State University Food Hero program. Check out Food Hero for recipes that can be made at home and with kids. Students have responded positively. Many also explore farm to school opportunities to include seasonal fruits, vegetables and other local foods year-round.

The school lunch of the future will likely include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Some are taking a serious look at plant-based diets and some are looking at local, sustainably sourced center-of-the-plate proteins such as seafood and beef. These are all complemented well by the nutrition provided in dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. Restrictions will continue for sodium, sugar and unhealthy fat, driven by science and recommendations from USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

You don’t have to gaze into a crystal ball to see the future of school lunches is looking bright. On this National School Lunch Week, we salute all of those who work so hard to put nutritious and delicious foods on our students’ trays. Thank you!

 

Home recipes of photos shown above … and more.

RELATED LINKS

Girl Scouts Earn Dairy Patch at TMK Creamery

Photos by Joy Foster

For the second year in a row, Girl Scouts from Oregon and SW Washington gathered for a day of fun and education as they earned their dairy patch. And for many of the Girl Scouts, this was the first time they had ever visited a farm or seen a cow up close.

The Oregon Dairy Patch curriculum was designed by the Girl Scouts of Oregon and SW Washington, Tillamook County Creamery Association, and the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council. With a focus on hands-on learning, it encourages Girl Scouts to visit a dairy farm, discover how milk is transformed into dairy products, explore dairy nutrition, and learn about careers in the dairy industry.

On September 29, TMK Dairy and Creamery invited the Girl Scouts to earn the dairy patch at a special “Dairy Day” event. Through four different station experiences on their farm, 100 eager Girl Scouts and their families had the opportunity to learn about dairy products from start to finish.

TMK Creamery is a small family farm that began 30 years ago when the owner Todd Koch purchased his first Holstein cow. “It all started with a 4-H project that went too far,” he says. In 1997, the milking herd had grown, so the Koch family built TMK Dairy, and in 2018 they opened a creamery where Koch’s sister Shauna and brother-in-law Bert Garza began making farmstead cheeses.

The Koch family is passionate about agriculture education and have designed their farm and creamery accordingly. Interested parties can schedule tours of the farm, or visit on Saturdays when the farm and creamery is open to the public.

For the Dairy Day event, the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, in partnership with Oregon Aglink, Oregon State University Extension, Oregon Dairy Women and TMK designed the stations to follow the Girl Scouts Dairy Patch Curriculum.

At the first station, TMK’s herdsman Marc Koch taught the Girl Scouts about the milking process. They watched a cow be milked, and even had the opportunity to milk a cow by hand. At this station they also had the opportunity to see calves and learn that they are fed with bottles, their bedding is clean and dry, and their pens are spacious and warm.

Station two, led by OSU Extension representative Jenifer Cruickshank, was all about how farmers care for their cows though nutrition, bedding, barns and pasture. They discussed the difference in dairy breeds and even had the opportunity to pet TMK’s “cowlebrities.”

At station three, Shauna Garza from TMK explained how milk from their cows gets made into delicious cheese. The Girl Scouts were able to look into the creamery through the windows of TMK’s boutique tasting room, where they learned about the importance of keeping the state-of-the-art equipment and facilities clean. Then, Mallory Phelan from Aglink and Tillamook County’s Dairy Princess Ambassador, Araya Wilks, led the group in a fun game designed to demonstrate the many career opportunities in agriculture.

The Girl Scouts were able to finish their patch requirements at the last station, led by the Klamath County Dairy Princess Ambassador, Jaime Evers, as she talked about the importance of dairy in a well-balanced diet, and then the Girl Scouts were able to “taste test” delicious cheese that was made right there on the farm.

“The Oregon Dairy Patch program is a great opportunity for girls to discover the local food chain. It encourages them to be curious about where their food comes from, and what it takes to get it from the farm to the factory to their table,” said Lisa Gilham-Luginbill, Program Manager for Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington. “We hope they’ll learn something new along the way, and perhaps discover an interest or future career in the process.”

RELATED LINKS:

Oregon Dairy Patch curriculum

Girl Scouts of Oregon and SW Washington

New Girl Scouts Dairy Patch Unveiled at Oregon Dairy Day Event

Who’s Who: Careers in Food