Lexington-Richland District 5 cafeteria managers recently took a class themselves, learning tips on making fresh fruits and vegetables more appealing to students.
The one-day training on Aug. 7 by culinary experts at the University of South Carolina was part of a Farm-To-School grant from the state Department of Agriculture and other agencies. More than 20 student nutrition workers gathered at the district’s Center for Advanced Technical Studies for the event aimed at sharpening knife and presentation skills and encouraging schools to use local ingredients.
District 5 is the first to receive the training, which will be given to at least three other districts this month.
“We take pride in having well-trained student nutrition professionals in our district,” said Todd Bedenbaugh, the district’s student nutrition director. “We also consider it a priority to provide fresh, quality ingredients to our students and meals that are as nutritious as they are delicious.
“We already have a focus on incorporating fresh products, and this training just helps our staff gain additional skills and expertise as a service to our students.”
Robin DiPietro, an associate professor at USC’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, said the goal of the Farm-To-School program is to connect the farm with the school and the community and to get children to understand the value and benefits of eating fresh and eating local.
“Just throwing out a can of green beans is not going to be appealing to students,” she said. “But just doing some simple things will make carrots, collards, apples and peaches look more appealing to kids. So, Farm-To-School and this training are to help kids gain better insight into positive eating habits.”
Two chef instructors from the university gave demonstrations and discussed ways the university has incorporated fresh ingredients into meals at campus dining facilities. The training also included presentations on food safety, receiving and inspecting produce and U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines.
“Everyone needs to see the benefits of eating local ingredients, and it starts with our students and developing early healthy eating habits that will stay with them for many years to come. District 5 is committed to that,” Bedenbaugh said.