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Oklahoma school nutrition professionals earn a chance to work with trained chef

Friday, September 22, 2017

School nutrition professionals from 15 Oklahoma schools and school districts will team up with a trained chef this semester to cook up fresher, tastier cafeteria offerings and whip up a sweeter overall dining experience.

Through Cooking for Kids, an innovative culinary training program designed to change the school nutrition landscape across Oklahoma, consulting chefs will partner with the district to identify key needs and develop an action plan tailored to meet those needs.

Consulting chefs will focus specifically on menu development and procurement, equipment and work schedules as well as effective marketing strategies.

“This is a great opportunity for schools and districts to work with a trained chef to enhance not only the meals they serve, but also the services they provide to our students,” said Deana Hildebrand, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist and lead coordinator for Cooking for Kids.

Districts and schools earned a chance to apply for a chef consultation after nutrition professionals from schools throughout the district participated in regional training sessions offered this summer through the Cooking for Kids program.

During those regional training sessions, school nutrition professionals learned creative, new ways to prepare healthy, balanced, flavorful meals. They also began working with revamped menus featuring more scratch cooking.

“There’s no doubt school nutrition professionals are as committed as anyone to our students,” Hildebrand said. “These school districts are proving how serious they are about that commitment by taking advantage of the chance to partner with a chef to enhance their school meal program.”

Schools and districts in various counties that earned chef consults this semester include Banner School (Canadian), Checotah Public Schools (McIntosh), Glenpool Public Schools (Tulsa), Hartshorne Public Schools and McAlester Public Schools (Pittsburg), Hugo Public Schools (Choctaw) and Mangum Public Schools (Greer).

Maple School (Canadian), Middleberg School (Grady), Noble Public Schools (Cleveland), Oklahoma School for the Blind and Webbers Falls School (Muskogee), Pleasant Grove School (Pottawatomie), Ringwood Public Schools (Major) and Seiling Public Schools (Dewey) also will participate in the chef consultations.

The Cooking for Kids culinary training program is a partnership between the

College of Human Sciences at OSU and the Oklahoma State Department of Education funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The initiative is designed to increase the availability of freshly prepared foods, boost student participation in the school meal program and expand public support for child nutrition programs.

Cooking for Kids was developed to help schools in Oklahoma implement revised nutritional standards established by the 2010 Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Participation in the program is free and open to all schools in the state.

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