Schools and chefs all across the nation are coming together to take part in Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools Program, an important component of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative.
“The program is about chefs that adopt a school,” said Jarrett Rogers, Fort Campbell schools food service director. “They help the health and wellbeing of children by working with student organizations to brainstorm alternative menus and create healthy dishes that are fun and delicious.”
On Jan. 28, Fort Campbell schools officially joined the ranks, kicking off their Chefs Move to Schools program by partnering with the Clifton T. Stanfill American Culinary Federation Chapter, located in Clarksville, Tenn.
“Our whole commitment here is all about childhood nutrition,” said Rogers. “Trying to get kids interested, and trying to get them educated in what we are offering.”
Child obesity rates having tripled over the past three decades and approximately one in three children in this nation are overweight or obese according to Chefs Move to Schools website, http://www.chefsmovetoschools.org.
School food programs are often the place where kids consume many of their meals and take in most of their calories, which place chefs in a vital position to help improve health and nutrition. The Chefs Move to Schools Program helps partner chefs with interested schools in their communities, allowing them to create healthy meals that not only meet schools’ dietary guidelines and budgets, but also teaches children about nutrition and making balanced and healthy choices.
“Our chefs can offer new techniques, recipes to our cafeteria staff for healthier meals that are able to meet the dietary guidelines of the national school lunch program and meet the cafeteria’s budget,” said Rogers.
“They can assist the schools team nutrition council in their efforts to educate kids about food and nutrition…give them some insight about food, and how it works, and how to choose healthier options.”
Chef Bob Howell, ACF chapter president, and Rogers are preparing to begin soliciting information from Fort Campbell school students on different menu items that they would like to see.
By making use of the chef’s creativity and culinary expertise, together with their ability to generate excitement about healthy food choices, schools will be able to educate children and show them that healthy eating can be fun.
“With this new program, kids can expect to see menu items that they probably have not experienced before,” said Rogers. “The menu items that we’re going to prepare are things that are new, that are different, but are very healthy for them.”
Long gone are the days of heat-and-serve. According to Rogers, 96 percent of meals served at Fort Campbell schools are cooked from scratch.
“[Lunchroom] stereotypes – we are definitely trying to overcome those,” said Rodgers. “If you ever actually go and visit one of the schools, you’ll see the commitment that these ladies and men in trying to give the children the absolute best product.”
Additional programs on the horizon for Fort Campbell schools include a Junior Iron Chef Competition Program, which is designed for high school students from the 9 - 12th grade.
“We are trying to come up with a team of three-to-five students from Fort Campbell High School that may want to compete in that,” said Rogers.
Each Junior Iron Chef team will demonstrate their creativity by preparing a dish that will be judged by a panel for originality, presentation and taste.
Regional winners will go on to compete at the Kentucky State Fair. The team entry deadline is March 15. Another initiative getting ready to kick-off on Fort Campbell is the Farm to Schools Program.
“[This program] will allow us to get produce straight from the farmer and bring it straight to the schools,” said Rodgers.
“We are working with the Veterinary community right now to make sure that it is done safely, to make sure the produce that we bring from that local farmer can meet the requirements that are necessary for us.“
Fort Campbell schools are also partnering with the nutrition department at Blanchfield Army Community to help children embrace a healthier active lifestyle.
With these new programs, partnerships and initiatives, “parents can expect that their children are going to have healthier, wholesome meals,” said Rogers.
Kids deserve meals they can not only enjoy, but also look forward to eating.
It should be loaded with nourishing foods to help kids succeed and flourish, and “why not make it fun, delicious and healthful as well?” Rogers said.