By: Annie Hanrahan, D.C. Program Manager
Thanks to our new partnership with FoodPrints, Wellness in the Schools is now in Washington, D.C! FoodPrints teaches gardening, nutrition and cooking classes to students using an academic approach in the classroom to get them excited to try delicious and healthy food.
As a successful organization started in 2009 in Washington, D.C., FoodPrints wanted to continue elevating their culinary and nutrition program by cooking new recipes for weekly FoodPrints days, which is when the cafeteria served two scratch-cooked FoodPrints recipes. As they began, they quickly realized they needed more support. Enter Wellness in the Schools! We were included in a USDA grant (our first) to help develop and execute the recipes in 10 cafeterias. WITS Chef Jami Bailey works at a different D.C. public school each day, supporting, training and empowering the kitchen staff while encouraging the kids to try the food and get them excited about scratch-cooked meals.
During the last week of August, Chef Jami Bailey and I, along with Megan Geiger, RD from SodexoMagic, visited the four schools that were part of the FreshFarm FoodPrints Cafeteria Project last year. When I was a former WITS Chef visiting new kitchens in NYC, we were oftentimes met with staff who appeared nervous, standoffish or unsure of what to expect of the program. However, these schools were different; I was amazed by how welcoming each kitchen was to us as we were greeted with open arms and big hugs. We started the conversation by asking them which recipes they liked best and which were more challenging, since we wanted to design the menu with their input this year. At Watkins Elementary, lead cook Ms. Green and cook Ms. Byrd told us how they already promote veggies by asking the kids what the magic word is for broccoli, green beans or other vegetables of the day while the kids cheer in response “DELICIOUS!”
We also visited the FoodPrints teaching classrooms, which was a dream. They had their own teaching kitchen with some classrooms specifically designed for FoodPrints programming! Most of the schools also have huge gardens for students to plant, grow and harvest their produce for the classroom.
SodexoMagic has been an extremely supportive partner managing the kitchen staff. Megan, along with the help of Jami, has gone to each school to make sure the staff has all their ingredients, aiding with prep if needed. She also holds weekly conference calls to discuss recipes from the week and go over new ones for the following. SodexoMagic also has some of their own scratch cooked recipes on their menus that goes out to all the schools, such as roasted sweet potato and kale, ginger kale, hummus veggie wraps and sesame carrots. We hope to make classroom versions of her recipes to support all scratch-cooked items on the menu!
This Fall, Special Guest Chef Jose Andres and WITS Executive Chef Bill Telepan will be hosting a very special event to celebrate our partnership with FoodPrints and DCPS, as well as the amazing school cafeteria staff who are changing how meals are prepared for students. Our relationships with DCPS, SodexoMagic and FoodPrints have been a true partnership. As we work together through the challenges and successes of bringing healthy meals to kids, the support is felt across the board.