On the Tot Chef Culinary Program, for Carrie Beegle

Cooking class helps engage students and parents in food program.

When Carrie Beegle, foodservice director for Cloverleaf Local School District in Lodi, Ohio, came to Cloverleaf she wanted a way to engage the parents and children in her district, so she created the Tot Chef cooking program. 

Q. What is the Tot Chef program?

It’s a cooking class for parents and children. There are 10 teams of two, and parents must come with their children. It’s a six-week course. Each class is two hours. We had our first class in April. The program is for elementary students. If we start them out young, then that’s something they will take with them throughout their lives.

I talk about nutrition a lot. I usually have different products that I’ve gotten from the grocery stores. We talk about reading labels and how we can add nutrition to our children’s meals without them even knowing about it, like using whole-grain or vegetable pastas. We had a taco day where we showed them how to make their own seasoning rather than using the pack from the grocery store, which is full of sodium and silicon.

My husband, Greg, an executive chef with AVI Foodsystems, volunteered to help. In the first class we show basic knife skills. So many people don’t know how to hold a knife correctly. We teach them kitchen safety. We talk about fire safety a lot. We show them all the different kitchen equipment so they become familiar with it.

Everybody has been talking childhood obesity and what can we do about it. It’s really hard as a school foodservice director to make a connection with parents because we get so frustrated because everybody is pointing a finger at us. We want to help these children make nutritional decisions; however, they are already making decisions before they get to us. When they come here as kindergartners they already know what they like. It’s my hope that we can get these parents to realize that even at this young age we can get children to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

Q. How is the program funded?

We received a Fuel Up to Play 60 grant and also a Cabot Creamery grant. I do charge $20 for the program so we can keep it going. If anyone is on the free or reduced program they are free.

Q. Were you surprised by the reaction to the program?

I wasn’t surprised about the reaction from parents. I had been speaking to them about the program and I had a list of parents who wanted to do it. They want to eat healthy and do the best that they can for their children. Unfortunately, some of them just don’t know how to do it.

Q. What advice would you give to directors looking to start a similar program?

Make sure you have the time. Your heart has got to be in it. You need a basic support staff or you’re not going to do well. I have staff volunteer to help out and I have total administrative support. Find out what the students and parents want to know. If you’re not teaching them something they want to learn they aren’t going to come back. And, of course, you’ve got to make it fun.  

Q. What’s next with Tot Chef?

Next year we’re going to have the basic course and add an advanced course. Also, at the middle school we’re going to do a spin on this because I have some grant money left. We’re going to pair up students and parents and do a cooking challenge with judges.

When Carrie Beegle, foodservice director for Cloverleaf Local School District in Lodi, Ohio, came to Cloverleaf she wanted a way to engage the parents and children in her district, so she created the Tot Chef cooking program. 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Amherst-Pelham Regional School District in Amherst, Mass., is updating its lunch debt policy to no longer single out students, MassLive reports.

Under the new policy, students with lunch debt will be given the same meals as their peers, regardless of how much they owe. School officials will also be communicating directly with parents of students who have accumulated debt instead of through the students themselves.

The updated policy comes just before U.S. school districts will be required to publicly list their lunch debt policies, per new USDA requirements starting July 1...

Menu Development
eureka

Since California’s state motto is “Eureka!” it seems fitting that a recent conversation with the director of hospitality at San Diego’s Palomar Health led to the biggest aha moment I’ve had in a long time.

I called Jim Metzger in late April with the purpose of discussing Palomar’s recent commitment to the goal of making 60% of its total menu plant-based by this summer. It seemed a lofty number, and I was curious how the public health system planned to get there.

But my personal eureka didn’t come while we were talking about how Palomar had cleaned up the impulse-buy zones...

Industry News & Opinion

Labeling foods with indulgent buzzwords such as “sweet sizzlin’” and “crispy” can lead consumers to make healthier food choices , according to a recent study out of Stanford University .

In the fall 2016 study, researchers labeled vegetables in one of the school’s dining halls using terms from four categories: basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent.

The green beans, for example, were listed as “green beans” for basic, “light ‘n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” for healthy restrictive, “healthy energy boosting green beans and shallots” for healthy...

Ideas and Innovation
sparkling water

Our carbonated soft drink sales at Earls.67 reflect a national trend; we’re continually down on carbonated soft drink sales by 8% to 9% on an annual basis,” says Cameron Bogue, beverage director at the contemporary-casual chain Earls Kitchen + Bar.

The issue with spa water

Many operators are intrigued with the offering, but they are learning that infused water can’t be offered at a cost to guests unless there is added value beyond cut-up fruit. Bogue says, “I was adamant that I didn’t want to charge for spa water.”

Agua fresca alternatives

At the original location of

...

FSD Resources