[ Teaching & Learning ]

SRPs embrace a farm-fresh take on school lunch

By Molly Belmont



chool-Related Professionals in the Southern Tier are heading back to cafeterias this fall with a fresh take on cooking. Over the summer, they attended “Farm-to-School Culinary Experience,” a four-day training for food service staff focused on using farm-fresh ingredients.

“We are incorporating more New York state products throughout our district menus,” said Annie Hudock, Broome BOCES Support Services Association. She serves as senior food services director for Broome-Tioga BOCES.

Food service staff posing in front of a table with food on it
More than 200 food service staff from 15 school districts attended a summer training on using farm-fresh foods at school.
Broome-Tioga BOCES partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Food and Health Network to host the event. Food service managers, cooks and helpers rotated through multiple units that covered knife skills, cooking techniques and how to use industrial-grade equipment to make short work of shredding, slicing and dicing.

The Farm-to-School program originated with a desire to serve healthier meals at schools. Initially, just five districts statewide participated. Those districts committed to using only local ingredients on “NY Thursdays.” Today, 15 districts are on board.

Farm products arrive at schools fresh and unprocessed.

“A lot of the foods in schools these days are ready-to-eat, so we’re trying to teach our staff how to prepare things from scratch,” said Paul Cerasaro, a member of the Broome BOCES SSA and school lunch supervisor for the Johnson City district.

Cerasaro said most of his staff are part-time and have not received formal culinary training. Professional development opportunities like this help his staff — and his students.

Tina Robinson, a member of the Union-Endicott Cafeteria Workers Association, said farm-fresh meals take more effort, but the kids are worth it.

The culinary training was a big deal for Robinson and her team. “The only other training we’ve had was videos.” This summer, she learned to use a robot-coupe. The industrial grade food processor is already in her cafeteria, but she’d never had a chance to try it until now.

“I used it for the beets,” she said. “It makes a mess, but it’s much easier.”