Chefs to help ‘spice up’ meals for east Ky. schools
Harlan Daily Enterprise
Martin County is among eight school districts to be awarded a grant to provide face-to-face instruction from chefs and to help them serve fresh local foods to their students.
The grants are under two pilot projects led by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Program in partnership with the Community Farm Alliance and the National Farm to School Network.
“School food service workers want to serve healthy, delicious meals to Kentucky children, and these projects will help them do that,” Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles said. “These investments will help the next generation of Kentuckians grow up healthy and strong, and they also will teach them to value farmers and local food systems as a way of life.”
The Community Farm Alliance will use $15,000 from the Central Appalachian Network to conduct the Chefs in Schools Collaborative in Harlan, Martin, Morgan, and Pike counties. The Central Appalachian Network funding was part of a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service, Rural Community Development Initiative.
Under the Chefs in Schools Collaborative, chefs will educate school food service personnel about incorporating fresh local foods in their menus, knife skills and proper handling of fresh local foods, taste testing with students, introducing local farmers to students to help them understand where their food comes from, recipe and menu development, and supporting local growers as part of rural economic development.
Jack Miniard, director of School Food Services for Harlan County Schools, said the district’s administrators and SFS staff are elated to receive the grant.
“We are very, very excited,” said Miniard. “This is a great opportunity to have a chef coming on board for the next few months.”
He said school food programs face many challenges to be in compliance with federal guidelines for menus, calorie and sodium reduction and whole grant implementation.
“Having a chef to assist in ‘spice cooking’ will be a great asset and a tremendous benefit to the health and well-being of our students,” he said. Herbs and spices are used to help enhance food flavors while limiting sodium content.
The Harlan County food service program serves more than 100,000 meals per month, with an average of more than 5,800 per day.
The projects will run from February through May with a two-day training at the Kentucky School Nutrition Association conference in June in Covington.
The National Farm to School Network will use funding from Seed Change, an 18-month, $1.5 million project funded by The Walmart Foundation, to support the Chefs in Schools Collaborative in Boyle, Clark, Grayson, and Oldham counties. Kentucky was one of three states – along with Louisiana and Pennsylvania – that were awarded grants from Seed Change.