The Coalition for Healthy School Food.
by Amie Hamlin
In Ithaca, NY, we believe our Cool School Food program is the first Farm to School program in the country to feature local organic beans and tofu for use in the entrée (known as the meat/meat alternate in USDA school food language). This past year a report about it was featured in a national Farm to School publication. Our Ithaca program is a partnership with the Ithaca City School District Child Nutrition Program, Moosewood Restaurant, Cayuga Pure Organics (growers of organic beans), and Wood’s Earth (growers of organic vegetables, and they also source local/organic vegetables from other farms for schools). Our entrees are on the menu at least once per week, and they are growing in popularity. Last year, we honored the Food Service Director, Denise Agati, at our fall gala. It is her dedication that makes this all possible, as well as the hard work of her staff.
The recipes have been developed by Wynnie Stein and Nancy Lazarus from Moosewood restaurant, in conjunction with our Cool School Food team. We are very excited to add Dean Zervos to our team. Dean is the owner of Simeon’s on the Commons, a popular restaurant. Sadly, the restaurant endured a tragedy when a truck lost it breaks and crashed into the restaurant. As a result, the restaurant is not open while the building is rebuilt. Dean was bored, and we have provided him with an exciting project! He has reworked most of the recipes to take into consideration some of the problems that came with transporting them to the schools from the central kitchen, and the kids (and teachers) are thrilled with the results. So are we! Dean has spent a lot of time in the central kitchen, working with the cooks to perfect the recipes. He has spent time in the schools, working with the kitchen managers and getting student feedback. We are so fortunate to have Dean’s expertise.
Another addition to our team this year is Sarah Wharton. She possesses a master’s degree in soil science, and we hired her for multiple purposes. She taught three after school programs, in which we teach kids to think critically about food during our interactive and fun plant-based nutrition education and cooking classes. The aim of these programs is to promote an increase in consumption of healthy, whole plant foods, while encouraging a decrease in processed foods and animal products. In our hands-on after-school cooking classes, the kids prepare and eat the Cool School Food entree that will be offered at lunch time that week, a process that promotes independence, confidence, awareness, and of course, healthy eating habits! She also taught an in school nutrition program to two fifth grade classes at Enfield Elementary. The culmination of the program was that the students cooked dinner for their parents, using one of our Cool School Food recipes. They chose the most labor intensive recipe, and it was quite amazing to see how it all happened. I give their teachers a lot of credit for being brave enough to do the dinner project! Seriously, it was a lot of fun and the food was delicious. Finally, we received a capacity building grant from the Howland Foundation as administered by the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. We were able to hire Sarah to help us get to some back burner projects – and we are making great progress.
The whole Ithaca team is amazing to work with and have worked hard to make our program more successful than ever. However, we need to get into more classrooms, to do more education. While all the pieces are in place to create this change, the only thing that limits us is funding. So please, give generously to help us reach more students, teachers, and parents.
Amie Hamlin is the Executive Director of Coalition for Healthy School Food