I work at Marin Academy High School, which is located in San Rafael, California. I cook the EXACT same food for the kids that I did for my high end restaurant patrons. Paella Tuesdays, Pad Thai Wednesday's, Artisan Pizza Friday's. We use organic meat, milk, and cage free eggs. ALL: stocks, soups, dressings, marinades and sauces are made from SCRATCH. The pasta is whole wheat and organic. The only thing in our freezer is local Strauss Creamery ice cream and frozen hand made veggie burgers. There is no high fructose corn syrup or trans fat allowed in the kitchen EVER- no exceptions. A farmer from Marin Organic brings me fresh produce from County Line and Star Root Farms every week. Some weeks he even brings me bags full of gleaned vegetables for free, 10 pounds of fennel? Aesthetically challenged green beans, chard, kale, beets?! Um... YES, PLEASE! Oh, and if I am missing any ingredient in my recipe, all I have to do is walk across the street to the student garden and get fresh herbs, kale, fava beans and squash. This is not your typical school, and I am not your typical lunch lady.
These kids eat beets faster then I can prepare them. They eat kale by the TRUCKLOAD.They love spinach, arugula and radicchio. They drink my apple balsamic vinaigrette by the gallon- seriously. I was on a roasted brussel sprout kick last year, so out of curiosity I ran it on the menu, turns out, the kids loved BRUSSEL SPROUTS! I am still surprised by that one! Cauliflower, chard, roasted fennel, bock choy, butternut squash, you name it these kids are all over it! One kid told me that he had been craving my stuffed portobello mushrooms all summer, so those will be back on the menu this next week. To me it is thrilling that I cannot clean and cut vegetables fast enough for the demand put on me by these 'veggie monger' kids!
There is great reward in cooking for and educating the next generation. Not only because I am a nutrition geek and a studying Nutritional Therapist, but because my heart honestly gets happy when kids eat nourishing foods. I take pride in NOT taking the shortcuts and actually cooking good, yummy, nourishing food! I am responsible for educating 400 high school kids for the next 26 weeks. Its a great responsibility, and I take it as a challenge to take these kids on a 'culinary adventure', introducing to them as MANY flavors and foods as I possibly can during this next school year. Monday, we are having Korean Beef Tacos with homemade Kimchi or Garden Pesto Pasta with sauteed summer squash and mint infused limeade. This is NOT your typical school lunch.
One can't help but to ask the questions: What would happen if we made it a priority and employed more passionate chefs at our children's schools? Could we actually get kids excited about cooking and eating healthy foods? Could that food experience educate kids to make better choices potentially lessening the childhood obesity epidemic? Could NUTRITION be the missing link to childhood behavioral problems? What are your thoughts?