A Fresh Look at What School Menus Can Be
With the authority of a celebrity chef, Adam Fisher gestured toward the bushels of fresh basil, oregano and parsley sitting on the counter in front of him, as the crowd leaned forward.
Matt Nager for The New York Times
“We almost want to treat fresh herbs like we treat fresh flowers,” he commanded, speaking into a microphone clipped to his apron. “You want to snip off the ends, and ideally you want to store them in some water.”
Mr. Fisher may not be some fast-talking TV personality, but he is a chef, a food supervisor for the Denver Public Schools, and he was giving a demonstration on how to whip up cafeteria food — in this case, cucumber and pasta salads — from scratch.
With new federal standards for school meals going into effect this month, and a renewed focus on the issue brought by the first lady, Michelle Obama, thousands of school chefs, food service workers and nutrition experts from around the country gathered in Denver this week at an annual conference put on by the School Nutrition Association, a nonprofit organization of school food professionals.
As vendors hawked samples of every imaginable school fare — whole-grain rolls, turkey sandwiches, pizza squares — cooks and school food administrators traded tips on how to improve their schools’ cuisine, part of a nationwide push to make school food tastier and more healthful.
But it was the new federal Department of Agriculturenutrition standards for school meals that seemed the main topic of conversation.
The rules establish calorie and sodium limits for meals, require schools to serve larger portions of fruits and vegetables and mandate that all milk be 1 percent or nonfat. Requirements for the use of whole grains are also being phased in.
With more schools cooking meals from scratch — which invariably means more fresh local fruits and vegetables in the kitchens rather than processed foods — districts have largely been able to keep pace with the new regulations, nutrition experts said.
Source: The New York Times