January 2012

I had the pleasure of attending Future Chefs‘ Healthy School Food Competition / Career Exploration Day on Saturday January 21st at Quincy High School.  Future Chefs is a non-profit organization which mentors high school students interested in culinary careers in the Greater Boston Area.  The organization, founded by Toni Elka in 2008, provides school to career counseling, skill-building curriculum, volunteer and internship opportunities, as well as some culinary scholarships.  

Saturday’s event marked the first venture into the world of school food for Future Chefs.  After a lively panel discussion with a group of Boston Area chefs, students divided into teams and got cooking!  Lead by Laura Zientek, a former Americorps Vista with the BPS Farm to School Initiative, the challenge was to create a healthy school lunch consisting of a whole wheat pizza, a vegetable side dish, and a low-fat dessert.   

After the cooking was complete, we all sat down to a mouth-watering lunch while the judges deliberated.  Among the many delicious creations was a barbeque chicken pizza made with homemade barbeque sauce instead of tomato sauce, a homemade pineapple gelato made with fresh pineapple and buttermilk, and a pesto chicken salad with a homemade creamy yogurt-based dressing. 

Needless to say, the judges had a no easy job.  In the end, the Quincy High School team was awarded best overall meal with its veggie deluxe pizza, Asian style chicken slaw, and homemade pineapple gelato.  The award for best individual dish went to Everett High School’s pesto chicken salad.  Somerville High School took the prize for best presentation with their “secret ingredient” healthy brownies, which the team later revealed were made with black beans. 

Thanks for a great day, Future Chefs, and congratulations to all the participants on a job well done!

All photos in this post are ©Laura Widness of Ruby Shoes Photography 2012.  Check out more great work by Laura here.

— Alexandra Emmott,  Boston Public Schools Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Coordinator


The Farm to School team has been busy serving up local produce every Thursday at all BPS Cafeteria Schools.  Before the winter break, we visited Boston Latin Academy in Roxbury where we sampled locally grown Macintosh apples.  Local apples are available all winter long thanks to cold storage facilities which preserve apples harvested in the fall.  Sweet and juicy, these apples were a favorite among students.

Last week, we visited the Dearborn Middle School in Boston’s Uphams Corner Neighborhood to sample locally grown cabbage and carrots shredded for a tasty coleslaw.  In addition to the traditional mayonnaise dressed slaw, we also sampled an Asian inspired coleslaw with a ginger-vinegar dressing.  Overall, students preferred the traditional slaw which was developed for Boston Public Schools by the Department of Food and Nutrition Services very own Milton Lashus. 

Here’s the Recipe for Milton’s Famous Slaw:

  • 1 pound shredded cabbage and carrots (shred your own or buy a prepared bag in the salad section of the supermarket)
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp mustard
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Toss together all ingredients in a large bowl and serve!

This week, on Thursday January 19th, we’ll be heading to the Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain to sample Czjakowski Farm roasted vegetable medley – a blend of butternut squash, rutabaga, and carrots

Early in December,  the Department of Food and Nutrition Services tested 3 new soup recipes all loaded with fresh Massachusetts grown produce.  We sampled the soups with elementary students, middle school students, high school students, and staff, collecting surveys and feedback from each group.  We’re hoping to menu the most popular soup + a whole wheat toasted cheese sandwich for lunch in February.

The three contenders are:

Southwest Vegetable:  Black beans, corn, green beans, and local butternut squash in a spiced tomato broth.

Vegetable Minestrone: Local carrots and collard greens along with macaroni and garbanzo beans in a rich tomato broth.

Colombian Butternut Squash and Vegetable: Local butternut squash, carrots, and rutabaga in a cilantro spiked chicken broth with corn and green beans.

All three soups pack a punch in terms of nutrition with a full serving of vegetables in each 8 ounce portion.

And the winner?  By a hair, it’s the Southwest Vegetable.  49% of all testers want to see this soup on the menu, as compared to 43% for the Colombian Butternut Squash and Vegetable, and 37% for the Vegetable Minestrone. 

Look for the Southwest Vegetable Soup on the Cafeteria Lunch Menu February 2nd as part of Local Lunch Thursdays!

The Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness (BCFF) hosted the second School Food Subcommittee meeting December 19th at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury.  The Subcommittee is intended as a forum for youth and community partners to both learn about and influence school food in Boston.

The first meeting, held on November 21st, 2011, focused on the Salad Bars to Schools Initiative.  Students from Boston Latin School and East Boston High School spoke on a panel about the process of applying for and acquiring salad bars at their schools.  Instrumental to the process at East Boston High (EBH) was the Healthy Hood Club, which was founded by Cait Van Damm and Alison Smizer of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center in 2010.  Read about the EBH salad bar story here.

The most recent BCFF School Food Subcommittee meeting focused on the source of school food – everything from USDA commodities, to local produce, to bread and milk.  The BCFF team participated in a farm to table exercise, lead by Kim Szeto (BPS Farm to School Coordinator), in which they were asked to map the progression of a variety of BPS lunch menu items from origin to consumption.

The next BCFF School Food School Food Subcommittee meeting is scheduled for January 23rd from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at the Tobin Community Center and will focus on campaign building and organizing in order to promote healthy school lunch options and local food.  The meeting is open to all Boston area students, teachers, parents, Food and Nutrition Services staff, and community partners.  We encourage you to join the conversation! For more information about the BCFF School Food Subcommittee or to RSVP for the next meeting please email Kim at kszeto[at]boston.k12.ma.us.