This September Lori McCoy, foodservice director at 4,700-student Colonial School District in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., teamed up with Carol Boehm, a local chef, as part of the Chefs Move to School program. Here McCoy shares with FSD the benefits of working with an outside chef and what the two women have planned for the future.
How and why did you get involved in Chefs Move to Schools?
We got involved when we saw the information come out from Michelle Obama and the USDA. We were very interested because one of our main focuses is on student nutrition. I have a background in nutrition. I’m a registered dietitian. We wanted to be able to form a partnership with somebody who could help us promote healthy meals and make them a little more appealing or appetizing for the students.
According to the USDA site where we signed up, we were supposed to be paired up with a chef. I was never officially paired with anybody, so I started looking at the names of chefs who were on there. I started reaching out to those people on my own. I saw Carol was in the area and she said she hadn’t been setup with anybody. So we did it on our own. We had our first meeting in September. She works with us on a monthly basis.
What is one initiative where your partnership with Carol has been very beneficial?
The one thing we have been working on right now is we are entering the recipe contest for healthy kids. The category we are working on is increasing green and orange vegetables in meals. We did a recipe for a spicy Asian turkey burger and a lettuce wrap with fresh-cut sweet potato fries. We worked with students in a cooking class to prepare it and we sampled it with students in the cafeteria. It’s actually been quite a hit, and we put it on our rotating lunch menu.
Why was it important to bring in a chef from the outside like Carol?
I feel like from a director’s standpoint, I’m usually looking at meals as far as nutritional content—do the meals fit into the budget and do the students like them? Being in the field that she is, I feel that Carol is aware of the trendier items and can bring a different skill set. I feel that we make a good team with my nutrition background and her background as far as meal presentation and trends.
What are some of the little ideas that Carol suggested that you thought, “Why didn’t we think of this earlier?”
We have a school garden that we started last May. Some of the ideas she gave us were ideas on how we could incorporate ingredients from the garden in school meals. For example, with the spicy Asian turkey burger and lettuce wrap, we used lettuce leaves from the garden.
A lot of times we get commodities that we don’t always know what to do with. We’ve had a lot of walnuts and dried cherries and she is working with us to do a no-bake granola bar recipe so that we can utilize some of the items that we get from commodities. She’s had a lot of good ideas and sheds a different light on our operation.
What are some of the things you and Carol are working on?
Future plans really involve her working with our staff in bootcamps, teaching them knife skills and presentation, really going back to the basics. We want to really step up our standards.
The other thing we are doing is we are taping a cooking show because of the popularity of “Iron Chef” and Rachael Ray. We are airing it on our district’s local cable channel. We’ve already taped the first episode, which has Carol, students and myself. I’ve got chefs coats and hats for the students. We are teaching families how to prepare easy healthy recipes in their homes. That way we are doing this not only in the schools, but we are also trying to let the communities know how to recreate these healthy meals in a home setting.
I just received word that we received $2,000 worth of free cookware from the Partnership for a Healthier America because we are part of this program. Some of the cookware is going to enable us to do demonstration cooking in front of the students. Chef Carol is going to help get that going.