The Maine Ingredient - What's on Your Plate?

The Maine Ingredient - What's On Your Plate?

Tue 18 Oct 2011

Story by Donna Cravotta

In August, John Turenne and Alden Cadwell of Sustainable Food Systems led “The Maine Ingredient: A Local Foods Training for Schools.”

The goal of this three-day culinary bootcamp was to explore new menu offerings that are fresher, more nutritious, and cost-friendly in the face of severe budget constraints—all while working in a collaborative environment with food service directors, kitchen managers, and the 65 school chefs in the district.

During the first day of training, food service workers from several schools came together to learn more about “sustainable food systems”, and what the impacts are upon themselves, their students, their communities, and the planet. After a delicious lunch made by Bon Appetit, based on local ingredients and from-scratch cooking methods, Michial Russell, Farm Manager of Pearson Town Farm, took the group on a farm tour to explore what a sustainable food system actually looks, smells, sounds, feels, and tastes like.

For the next two days, school district personnel worked with John and Alden to learn new recipes and test out new kitchen equipment, which was recently purchased as a result of a Healthy Lakes’ Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant. The new equipment includes robot coupes (industrial food processors), immersion blenders, salad spinners, potato punches, and more.

Over 15 recipes were tested and tasted, including homemade from scratch five-vegetable tomato sauce, mac and cheese and all time favorite fat fries, a healthy baked version of French fries made from local potatoes. Here are a few of the recipes scaled for both school and home portions.

School Board members, administrators, teachers, and staff all stepped up to the plate to be the first to try these new offerings. And while everyone has their individual preferences, it was clear that these recipes could be enjoyed by all.

This September the local school kids in Cumberland County were pleasantly surprised by the tasty and healthy new options on their lunch trays! School Health Coordinator, Courtney Kennedy reported "As a result of the training food service staff feel more confident in creating healthy and wholesome meals that are made from scratch. I just had lunch with students at a school during Maine Harvest Lunch, where we used a recipe from the Maine Ingredient Training, fat fries, and the students were raving about them."

The importance of food choices and the impact these decisions have on their bodies and their community and how to share this information with students, staff and families was also included in the program. Approximately 60 percent of the adults in Cumberland County are overweight; this is a step in the right direction to turn this statistic around.

John has long been a quiet force in the school food movement, while still working as an Executive Chef at Yale University, he started the Yale Sustainable Food Project with support from Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. He was one of nine chefs invited to the White House to help formulate the Chefs Move to Schools program, a part of Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative to combat childhood obesity. Both John and Alden were the consulting chefs or the “reality behind the reality show” as part of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in Huntington, West Virginia.

Sustainable Food Systems, John's consulting business, helps institutions and organizations incorporate practices that value and care for the earth, local food producers and food in their dining programs.

The Maine Ingredient was generously funded by the Federal Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) initiative, the Community Food Security Coalition, the People's Regional Opportunity Program and the City of Portland.

About the author: Article compiled by Donna Cravotta, including information and photos provided by Adam Burk, Program Coordinator for Sustainable Community Health Communities Putting Prevention to Work A program of PROP-People's Regional Opportunity Program


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