Trainings to Improve School Meals A Hit

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Smarter Lunchroom Training with Heidi Kessler, Nutritionist with Let’s Go!, 5-2-1-0 program (in bottom right of photo) with participants from schools in Hancock and Washington counties. (Submitted photo).

Would a child be more inclined to select spinach with their school lunch if it were called “Superhero Food?” What about “X-Ray Carrots” or “Bean Bonanza?” 

These were the types of questions addressed at two trainings offered by Downeast CTG (Community Transformation Grant) in collaboration with Healthy Acadia, the Maine Department of Education, Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0, RSU 25, Wabanaki Cultural Center, Maine Indian Education, Calais School Department, and Wabanaki Public Health this fall in Hancock and Washington Counties for School Food Service Directors, Managers and Cooks.  

Over 60 food service providers from Downeast schools attended these trainings. The first was a four-hour training covering the new regulations for breakfast and lunch, which are designed to make school meals healthier. 

“Regional trainings are a great way for schools to make sure they are meeting the healthier new meal standards,” says Jessica McGovern, the school nutritionist working with the Department of Education School who offered the training. “Meal regulations have been dramatically overhauled in the past few years and partnerships, like this one, have given different areas within our state the support and guidance that they need to feed our state’s children the healthiest meals possible.”

The second was “Smarter Lunchrooms” with Heidi Kessler, a nutritionist with the Let’s Go, 5-2-1-0 Program. She offered practical, evidence-based tips to food service providers focusing on marketing, menu labeling, lunchroom design, and creating healthier menu options, all in order to nudge kids and parents to make healthier choices.

Participants enjoyed snacks and a light supper using vegetables from area farms with recipes they could use in their kitchens from Healthy Acadia’s Downeast Farm to School Program. Gas cards for $10 were available for those traveling a distance and each provider was given a small kitchen utensil to take back to their kitchens courtesy of the Downeast CTG grant.

These trainings were held on October 28 and 30 and November 20 and 21 and hosted by Bucksport Middle School in Bucksport and in Calais at the Wabanaki Cultural Center and Calais Middle/High School.

Schools are being required to offer more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and less sugary drinks and new protein options including beans and legumes. These trainings offered information and guidance to school food service providers to assist them with these changes.

Downeast CTG is a grant funded through the Maine Centers for Disease Control working in Washington and Hancock counties to improve health, nutrition and physical activity in our communities.  Currently we are working with schools in both Hancock and Washington Counties.  If your school might be interested in setting goals to continue improving health, nutrition and physical activity please contact Georgie Kendall, Downeast CTG Coordinator at 904-7504 or georgianak@unitedwayem.org.