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Cooking Matters Michigan

Empowering families with the skills, confidence and knowledge to prepare healthy and affordable meals

Cooking in Schools

jhartrick

As noted in our post, "Battling Childhood Hunger," the ability to serve good, healthy meals in schools is compromised by the amount of federal funding provided. When you're on a $2.70-per-child budget, what is the incentive of providing fresh food?

The New York Times published an article on Tuesday that talks about schools' inability to cook healthy meals with the equipment they have. Here is an excerpt:

Many advocates for better, healthier school food have begun to believe that the only way to improve what students eat is to stop reheating processed food and start cooking real, fresh food.

But little actual cooking goes on in the nation’s largest public school system, largely because little of it can. Barely half of New York’s 1,385 school kitchens have enough cooking and fire-suppression equipment so cooks can actually sauté, brown or boil over open flame.

Even in those that do, aging ovens sometimes don’t heat properly, equipment is hidden away in storage rooms or broken, and the staff isn’t trained to do much more than steam frozen vegetables, dig ravioli out of a six-pound can or heat frozen chicken patties in a convection oven.

New York is not that unusual. More than 80 percent of the nation’s districts cook fewer than half their entrees from scratch, according to a 2009 survey by the School Nutrition Association.

The slide didn’t happen overnight. As many American families stopped cooking and began to rely on prepared and packaged food, so did the schools. It became cheaper to cut skilled kitchen labor, eliminate raw ingredients and stop maintaining kitchens.

“In school food 30 or 40 years ago, they roasted turkeys and did all of these things,” said Eric Goldstein, the chief executive of the Office of School Support Services.

“We all recognize we want to be scratch cooking again, but we have some challenges to get there.”

You can read the rest of the story here

When we see what kinds of foods students are allowed to eat in school, it's no wonder that we have an obesity problem amongst children and adolescents. More to be said on that in future posts.