White House gives big Let's Move! lauds to Florida's Orange County Public Schools district for Chefs Move pilot project...
Senior Policy Adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass brought some White House sunshine to the Sunshine State on Friday, with a visit to Edgewater High School in Orlando, Florida, for a special event. He was greeted like a rock star, and mobbed with requests for autographs. But from the White House perspective, the stars of the show were the school nutrition service managers, professional chefs from the local community, and students who have joined First Lady Michelle Obama's Chefs Move To Schools initiative, and collaborated for a healthy and delicious revamp of the cafeteria menus for the Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) district. (Above: Kass with students from Wolf Lake Elementary School, OCPS senior director of food and nutrition services Laurie Gilbert (l), and USDA's Janey Thornton at the event)
The tenth largest school district in America, OCPS serves an astonishing 26 million lunches each year. For the past four months, eleven schools have been participating in a Chefs Move pilot project to create delicious new "kid approved" dishes that focus on vegetables while reducing fat and calories. These will be served in school cafeterias across the district.
Kass braved a DC blizzard for the Let's Move! road trip, and he was accompanied by USDA's Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services for a first-hand look at the efforts. Nine students and their partner chefs cooked on tables draped with blue clothes on the stage in Edgewater High's auditorium, back dropped with a big screen that read Chefs Move To Schools. They demo'd the collaborative recipes for a cheering crowd of parents, teachers, staff, chefs and school officials. (Above: Kass gets a good luck at the creation of a student chef)
After sampling the offerings, Kass lauded the impressive work.
"The creative partnership of the chefs, the food managers and the inclusion of the students is a model that should be duplicated nationwide,” Kass said. "Here today is the greatest model I've seen yet. Tjis is exactly what it is all about. It's more than I dreamed--young people taking owenership and leadership in accomplishing the First Lady's goals."
Mrs. Obama would assuredly appreciate the recipes: Kass and Thornton tasted Fish Tacos with Tilapia and shredded carrots, red and green cabbage, bok choy and avocado in a whole grain tortilla; Taboule Chicken Salad with tomato, cucumber, couscous, feta cheese, lemon juice and olive oil; and Fruit Roll Ups with melon, strawberries, and pineapple in rice paper.
The White House released a model healthy school lunch menu after President Obama signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act into law, and the dishes could easily have taken a star turn on that aspirational document. They're also right in line with the new nutrition standards for the Act. (Above: Kass gives the recipes a thumbs-up)
“This was a phenomenal event! To see the passion and dedication of all involved to positively impact child nutrition was inspiring," Thornton said. "I look forward to expanding this program across the country.”
USDA is responsible for matching professional chefs with their local schools for Chefs Move, and to date about 2,200 schools and more than 1,500 chefs have signed on for the initiative. Mrs. Obama first launched the project in June of 2010 at a huge event on the South Lawn of the White House, when hundreds of chefs, including superstar celeb chefs Tom Colicchio, Rachael Ray, Cat Cora, Michel Nischan, Bill Telepan, Marcus Samuelsson and Daniel Boulud showed up to help kick off the initiative (Above: The First Lady speaking at the event).
"You all are at the heart of this initiative, because if anyone understands nutrition and food, it’s the folks sitting here in their whites today," Mrs. Obama told the chefs about the importance of their role in the success of Let's Move!. "Each of you has so much to offer when it comes to helping our children make healthy choices."
The chefs partnering with OCPS come primarily form the big theme park operations that fill the Orlando area, which is notable because they're all part of major corporations that can also have an impact on childhood obesity, thanks to the millions of meals served in between rides and entertainment. They represent some of America's top culinary associations, including the International Corporate Chefs Association, American Culinary Federation, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, Research Chefs Association and Healthy Kids Challenge.
“This is what school nutrition should be about, looking to partner with external organizations and incorporating new knowledge and creativity to give our students delicious tasting and healthy food they want to eat," said Lora Gilbert, senior director of Food and Nutrition Services for OCPS. (Above: Kass shakes hands with a student chef)
The chefs at the OCPS event included Chef Marcus Colon, of the Latin Quarter Restaurant at Universal City Walk, who worked with food service manager Sharon Rouse and students at Metrowest Elementary School; Chef Kathleen Blake of Pine 22, who worked with Lisa Douglas and students at Wolf Lake Elementary School; Chef Chris Skulmutch of the Culinary Development for MARS Food group, who worked with Ollie Brown and students at Dommerich Elementary; Chef Thomas Gentile, who worked with Ivan Rios and students at Avalon Middle School; Chef josh Turek, who worked with Karen Rich and students at Bridegwater Middle School; Chef Ed Colleran, Executive Sous Chef at Universal Studios, who worked with Sharon Springer and students at Liberty Middle School; Chef Bryab Frick of Nestle professional Corporate Chef of National Accounts, who worked with Tracy williams and students at Apopka High School; Chef Steve Jayson, VP, Corporate Executive Chef, Universal parks & Resorts, who worked with Lenworth Brown and students at Olympia High; and Chef Gary Jones, Culinary Diet Specialist, who worked with Scottie Ferguson and students at Oak Ridge High School.
*Top photo from OCPS; others by Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel; First Lady photo by EGK/ObamaFoodorama.com