Local Cafeteria Workers Study Healthy Cooking

Submitted by the Southern Vermont Area Health Education Center

On Thursday, August 29 the Southern Vermont Area Health Education Center (SVAHEC) and its 30+5 program sponsored a Vermont Food Education Every Day (VTFEED) workshop at the Bellows Falls Union High School.

This training was designed to familiarize cafeteria staff with the cooking and handling of fresh produce and whole grains along with incorporating new foods into existing dishes.

At this hands-on workshop, participants transformed fresh, local, and seasonal products into the following tasty menu items: vegetarian lasagna, assorted mashed winter squash, and whole grains with seasonal vegetables. Participants also learned bulk cooking techniques for vegetables that preserve and retain freshness and color.

Ten cafeteria associates from the local cafeteria service provider, Caf Services, and the Regional Caf Services manager, John Kenyon attended the four hour training. Caf Services has committed to the continued improvement of school foods through the increased use of local products.

Caf Services contributed financially to this workshop, as did GHousen Beverage Distributors of Brattleboro, Wal-Mart of Claremont, NH, Blue Cross Blue Shield of VT, and Durand Toyota/Ford of Bellows Falls. Additional funds were provided by 30+5's federally-funded Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant.

On September 30 this same workshop will be offered to Caf Service Associates in Springfield and Windsor.

Beginning this fall, 30+5 will offer hands on cooking experiences to elementary school youth in both Springfield and Bellows Falls.

Each month, Nancy Schaefer and Daylyn Finnegan, the 30+5 program staff, will visit elementary school classrooms to help them prepare cafeteria taste-tests featuring fresh produce. Since school foods are a large portion of the calories consumed by youth, the 30+5 program focuses on the nutritional quality of school foods; additionally 30+5 encourages and assists schools to increase physical activity options for youth.

To help the schools provide meals with fresh produce, 30+5 is asking community members with surplus produce in their gardens to donate extra fresh produce to their local school cafeteria; please check with your school cafeteria service manager to see if they can utilize your produce.

Schaefer, coordinator of the 30+5 program said, "Schools in Springfield and in the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union (Bellows Falls and surrounding towns) will gladly accept donated produce; monies saved by these donations will help them to purchase more fresh fruits, and vegetables during the rest of the school year."

If you would like more information about our program please contact her at 885-2126 ext. 206. nschaefer@svahec.org.

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