Finicky palates no cruise for cafeteria managers

April 20, 2015 - Picnic Time


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Finicky palates no cruise 
for cafeteria managers

In bid to yield healthier fare, district spending some-more — and saying some-more waste

Nancy Fricke, a dietetic novice from a University of Northern Colorado, writes down a weight of a boy’s full lunch tray before a tyro takes it to a list to eat during Dos Rios Elementary School. Fricke was conducting a rubbish investigate of a volume of food students are withdrawal on their trays.


school lunch series

School lunch looks and tastes zero like it used to, interjection to reforms directed during creation cafeteria dishes healthier. In a four-day series, The Daily Sentinel examines a impact of those changes on students, staff and School District 51 nourishment services’ $5 million-plus budget.

Today: Picky palates meant some-more waste

Tuesday: High propagandize cafeterias face outward competition

Diana Tarasiewicz’s business in a past ranged from those seeking elegant, multi-course dinners with booze pairings to themed events. She’s an award-winning chef, a culinary instructor with some-more than 25 years of knowledge who ran her possess catering association famous for universe cuisine. She can hoop all from a Bridezilla obsessing over hors d’oeuvres to epicurean food for hundreds of guests.

But those clients can’t reason a carrot hang to a toughest critics in her stream pursuit as a district manager for School District 51’s Nutrition Services.

Tailoring menus to interest to a palates of kindergartners by high propagandize seniors is challenging, to contend a least. Add a complexity of adhering to sovereign nutritive standards — including low sodium and whole-grains manners — and a scanty budget, and that’s a recipe for what a folks who feed some-more than 9,000 kids on normal in District 51 understanding with each day.


As a child flourishing adult in Toul, a tiny city in France’s Alsace-Lorraine region, Tarasiewicz was unprotected to a far-reaching accumulation of foods. She attempted escargot during age 5 and desired it. She ate from her godmother’s garden and felt a clever tie to uninformed food, and used farm-to-table vital before it was a buzzword in a culinary world. Today, she’s tasked with assisting a district transition to a menu featuring some-more uninformed foods, dishes done from blemish while appealing to youngsters’ palates that are some-more accustomed to Kraft Easy Mac n’ Cheese and Lunchables than healthy, uninformed foods.

“Cooking for kids, for me, is many some-more of a plea than cooking for adults,” Tarasiewicz said.

Dealing with children’s expectations about how food should seem and their preferences for certain textures has been challenging. Sometimes, a accurate same mixture presented in a opposite format can be a disproportion between kids fondness a plate or refusing to eat it.

Take, for example, a district’s lasagna. It’s done with marinara salsa that’s crowded of vegetables, chopped and simmered down in 30-gallon batches, afterwards pureed with an soak blender and frozen, available a destiny as a cornerstone of one of 6 opposite recipes. The kitchen staff calls it a “mother sauce.”

The lasagna, done with a marinara, noodles, beef crumbles and cheese, wasn’t renouned with a kids.

“Mostly during a facile level, a kitchen managers would contend it’s not something a kids are used to eating during home,” Tarasiewicz said.

So they tweaked a recipe and done it a one-pot plate instead of a labor-intensive, layered dish. Luigi’s Cheesy Noodles are a result, with whole-grain bend macaroni substituting for lasagna noodles.

Another dish, a macaroni and cheese, indispensable to seem some-more like a boxed preference food from a grocery store to interest to students. To grasp a signature propagandize train orange-colored sauce, Tarasiewicz used something from her arsenal of spices to boost a coloring and cover adult a dark, whole-grain pasta. Simply creation a salsa with a tiny achiote, a Latin American spice, did a trick.

What kids eat during home is mostly what Tarasiewicz tries to keep in mind when bettering recipes for tyro palates. While she can’t change what kids eat outward of school, or a sodium or fat boundary imposed by U.S. Department of Agriculture rules, she has other tricks adult her sleeve.

“What I’m perplexing to do is make a food ambience improved with a use of spices and spices though adding salt,” she said.

Kitchen managers now make all their possess piquancy blends and salad dressings, to equivocate additional sodium.



Tarasiewicz assimilated a district as partial of a dialect reorder headed by Nutrition Services Director Dan Sharp 3 years ago. For a district to mangle divided from menus riddled with heat-and-serve, preference dishes done elsewhere, he indispensable to give kitchen staff a scold training, a scold collection and a prophesy of what it’s like to be a chef, not a stereotypical lunch lady. He hired 3 district managers, including Tarasiewicz, to manager and support kitchen staff as they retooled a menus and transitioned to a scratch-cooking model.

Together, a district managers manager kitchen staff during 37 schools on a sum of implementing a new cooking methods and executing a recipes.

Before a change, a district was during a tallness of what Sharp calls a “ballpark menu,” definition it was mostly heat-and-serve, pre-packaged dishes we would design during a ball game. Trays were installed with fries, nachos, tater tots, prohibited dogs, hamburgers and pizza. Before propagandize nourishment manners were revamped in suitability with recommendations from a Institute of Health, there were no boundary on trans-fats or sodium. Moving divided from that indication has been a prolonged and formidable process.

“It’s about operative harder and smarter,” Sharp said.

Time management, engineering menus delicately and a execution of a new recipes is still a daily challenge.

Since creation a joining to relocating divided from cooking with box cutters toward providing from-scratch meals, there have been some flourishing pains. The transition has compulsory composition in staff training, apparatus and budgets. Providing some-more uninformed fruits and vegetables for students has cost some-more income — this year a bill for furnish increasing by $200,000. That’s 3.5 percent of a district’s annual food costs.

Through a Colorado Health Foundation and LiveWell Colorado, Sharp has acquired $265,000 in apparatus indispensable for plate preparation, such as food processors and blenders to clout vegetables and censor a healthful pieces in a sauces, something he calls “stealth health.” Grant appropriation also saved training for staffers who are still adjusting to cooking with whole, uninformed foods.



The one area a district has no control over is a fussy palates of a business — a students. Although they can yield uninformed ingredients, a whole pellet breads and pasta, and a roasted vegetables, they can’t make kids eat them.

And in a end, a justification of how good it’s going over is in a bags of rubbish that custodians transport to a Dumpster out back.

Dos Rios Elementary School Lead Custodian Mark Greenlee knows accurately what’s renouned for lunch and what apparatus are duds. On days when a cafeteria serves prohibited dogs, Greenlee notices a thespian rebate in a volume of rabble he deals with.

Greenlee has beheld an boost in a volume of food rubbish given a sovereign lunch reforms and a district motionless to pierce toward a scratch-cooking model. He’s not impressed.

“I get a health-kick stuff,” he said. “They’ve altered a menu to give healthful dishes to kids, though in a routine they’ve combined food kids don’t like.”

The volume of rubbish Greenlee deals with on a daily basement is no tiny volume. At lunch alone, he collects dual 30-gallon bags of rabble per class level, hauling them outward between waves of students. This means he collects roughly 180 gallons of rabble per day during lunchtime. If it’s a Bronco burger day or a prohibited dog day, there’s reduction trash. If it’s a macaroni and cheese day, a Frito cake day, a cheesy prohibited slot day or a fiesta nacho day, he depends on it being a complicated rabble day.

“I don’t caring how good a nourishment looks on paper, since if it’s in here,” he said, indicating to a rabble can, “it doesn’t do a damn bit of good.”

The volume of food that goes in a rabble instead of into students’ bellies is frustrating, pronounced Vanessa Carter, a dietitian for Primary Care Partners who contracts with a district to yield support for nourishment services.

“It would be like we spending all morning scheming a uninformed meal, to go by all this bid to furnish scratch-cooked dishes and to see it go in a rabble can has got to be so disheartening,” Carter said. 
Much of a shortcoming for kids’ palates being accustomed to high-salt, sugary, high-fat, preservative-laden dishes distinct a ones served during propagandize rests on a parents, she said.

“So many relatives aren’t cooking food. We see a lot of ramen noodles, Hot Pockets, solidified pizzas. It’s unequivocally not really common to see Mom cooking grilled duck with a side of broccoli and brownish-red rice,” she said.

In Carter’s experience, many of a clients she sees during a use have diets filled with “cheap calories,” mostly since it costs some-more to eat uninformed fruits and vegetables, and since families with relatives operative some-more than full-time jobs don’t prioritize scheming meals.

“They don’t have a supports or a time,” she said.

She finds that kids struggling with plumpness splash a lot of soda, not milk, like what’s offering during school. This explains one of a reasons a lunchroom rubbish isn’t usually from a food — it’s also from beverages. While a district offers low or no-sugar a-la-carte libation options during an additional cost in center and high propagandize lunch lines, in facile schools a choice is singular to milk. And during Dos Rios, plain white divert is a usually option, that is a building principal’s decision.

On any given day during lunch, Greenlee empties roughly 12 gallons of divert dumped into buckets by students who drank usually a few sips after opening their cartons. At breakfast, it’s about another 5 gallons down a drain. And sitting on what’s called a “share table,” where students can place unopened divert cartons and other food that’s still spotless to share with other kids, he’ll have anywhere from 23 to 50 unopened divert cartons. Greenlee is mostly faced with throwing it divided since he simply doesn’t have room to keep it.



The volume of rubbish creates Dos Rios Kitchen Manager Cindy Reid sad. It’s not usually about what didn’t get into a students’ stomachs – it’s about saying all that tough work go into a trash.

In a tiny some-more than an hour, Reid and dual employees served 270 lunches on this day. On average, they also offer about 160 breakfasts each day. On this sold day, a cheesy baked pasta noodles were on a menu. Her staff spent a few days scheming a marinara salsa from scratch.

Although a preference to pierce to less-processed dishes came with additional training and apparatus saved by grants, it didn’t come with some-more kitchen help. Reid is a usually full-time worker in her kitchen, and she has dual part-time employees who work 6 hours per day and another who comes in for 3 1/2 hours per day, usually to ready fruits and veggies.

Reid has seen flattering many all between her years during a aged Columbus Elementary and her time during Dos Rios. She believes it’s good that a district is returning to a from-scratch cooking method, and that students advantage generally from a uninformed fruits and vegetables being combined to a menu. Some kids she’s encountered over a years don’t have bearing to uninformed dishes during home. One seemed confused a day she served whole, uninformed pears.

“I had a pear on tray and this child didn’t know what it was,” she said. “He’d never seen one that wasn’t from a can.”

That’s one of a reasons she believes a transformation toward fresher, some-more healthful dishes is a good thing, notwithstanding a composition for students and staff.

The transition has been challenging, pronounced Reid, who has worked for 20 years in food service, 16 of those for District 51, and is timid after this year. When she initial started operative in nourishment services during a aged Columbus Elementary School, a lunch ladies done all from scratch, down to a hamburger and prohibited dog buns.

“It’s come full circle, it’s funny,” she said. “But we feel like with a uninformed fruits and veggies we’ve been adding, we’re headed in a right direction.”

Email Erin McIntyre during .(JavaScript contingency be enabled to perspective this email address).

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