You might be wondering what “scratch cooking” means. Simply put, it means making school meals from scratch. If you happen to be in a school cafeteria at lunch time take a look at what is being served. You will notice it is the farthest thing from “home made.” Schools serve primarily “prepared food” because it is easier and less costly. The cafeteria workers simply have to “reheat” and lunch is ready. But, is this healthy for our kids? Not really!
Luckily, there seems to be a movement in trying to make healthier changes in our schools. Kate Adamick, well known food consultant, is the catalyst in this “food revolution.” She has dedicated herself to bringing scratch cooking back into America’s schools. Kate heads a program called “Cook for America Culinary Boot Camp.” This boot camp provides school food personnel with culinary training, turning them from re-heaters of processed food into “Lunch Teachers.”
However, this new trend of “healthier” school lunches is easier said than done, particularly in different parts of the country. Schools with money and involved parents concerned with obesity and nutrition were ready to go but poor, struggling districts, find it extremely difficult to initiate this change. Also, there is the issue of equipment–do schools have the labor force and the equipment to make “scratch” cooking even possible? Where there is a will there is a way!
Colorado is one state that has begun to embrace this change. The Colorado Health Foundation donates $1,000 for each school district that participates in these boot camps. With this money, schools are able to purchase equipment that help the Lunch Teachers be more efficient in their day to day operations. In addition, the Colorado Health Foundation offers large financial grants to districts that are willing and eligible to go through the full assessment process.
The “powers that be” may argue that scratch cooking costs more than reheating processed food. In districts where large numbers of students are eligible for free and reduced meals, they often provide breakfast in the classroom. Herein lies a potential opportunity. According to Kate Adamick; “If we make from scratch, we can cut costs by no longer paying manufacturers to turn free raw commodity meat products into costly processed items. We can also eliminate the practice of portioning items into individual containers prior to service which reduces labor hours and cuts costs for packaging. Also if we minimize the number of choices offered daily we could reduce labor hours through economies of scale. The potential for increased revenue and cost reductions can reach millions of dollars each year.”
Is your school district trending toward scratch cooking? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that our kids’ learning doesn’t stop just because they’re eating lunch? Let’s join the 100+ districts nationally in helping to foster learning in the cafeteria!