NYC Schools do about-face (again) on star chefs

Wellness in the Schools will continue with revamped menu.

Aug. 29—A popular chefs' cooking program will continue in New York City schools, officials said Monday. The Wellness in the Schools program (WITS) pairs a chef with the school's cafeteria staff to create from-scratch meals. The program also has a strong educational focus.

Last week it was reported that WITS would no longer be working in the school kitchens. WITS schools—currently 30—offer a different menu than the other schools in the district. The WITS menu, however, uses the same products available to other schools. With the new meal pattern regulations, the district thought it would be too difficult to verify that the WITS' menu was meeting the new requirements, thereby costing the district federal dollars in reimbursement.The WITS educational component was never on the chopping block.

On Monday school officials decided to continue WITS' chef cooking component.

"We are working in collaboration with WITS on an alternative menu that will also meet the new U.S.D.A regulations," Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman for the district, told FSD. "The department aims to work with our partners, and we value having an organization like WITS in our schools."

Fienberg said the WITS program will be expanded to 100 schools this year. WITS schools will use the Department of Education's menu until the program's menu is brought into compliance with the new meal pattern.  

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources