Three local school districts are participating in Cook for America’s
three-phase program so they can offer healthy eating options and scratch cooking in their cafeterias next school year.
Interact for Health
, formerly The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, is funding this $150,000 initiative for the Erlanger-Elsmere, Milford and Norwood School Districts.
When combined, these districts serve more than 16,000 area students.
“We’re looking at how to create healthy environments so people really can have healthy food and physical activity at their disposal so they can become healthier,” says Jaime Love, Interact for Health’s program officer for healthy eating and active living.
Participating schools are currently in the first phase of the program, which involves food assessment—looking at the schools’ kitchens, what is being served within them, how food is being prepared, and what districts can do to budget for healthier options and food preparation techniques.
“We’re trying to focus on how to make it affordable and also effective, because they’re short on staff and short on time,” Love says.
The second phase of the program kicks off this summer when participating districts send their culinary staff members to Cook for America’s five-day Lunch Teachers Culinary Boot Camp
“They’ll go through training about food prep, food safety, creating menus, and literally learning how they can do scratch cooking in schools and make it taste good and be affordable and within their budgets,” Love says.
Cook for America chefs will then do follow-up visits at each school’s kitchen to provide assistance in implementing the changes, which will begin to take place during the 2014-15 school year.
“Schools have a huge impact on our students and the food that they eat, which in turn also impacts students as learners,” Love says. “We really want schools to be a place where kids can get healthy foods and really receive the nourishment that they need, and we want schools to believe that they can do this.”
• Contact your local district's superintendent or food service director, and encourage healthier options in your schools.
• Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and aim for physical activity 3-5 days a week.
• Like Interact for Health on Facebook
By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.