Cafeteria workers cook up healthy food at culinary lab in Boardman

The culinary labs are made possible by a grant from the Child Nutrition Association through the Ohio Department of Education

Cafeteria workers from local schools learned how to make healthy food appealing at a culinary lab in Boardman.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Boardman High School hosted a culinary lab on Tuesday where cafeteria workers could learn new and creative ways to make nutritious food more appealing.

Cooks from 11 different school districts came to get some new ideas for when students return in the fall. Salad bar foods was the theme for Monday’s lab.

“We have the Let’s Move Salad Bars to School initiative, that’s from the first lady,” said Carrie Beegle, a chef trainer for the Ohio Department of Education. “Believe it or not, right now our kids are growing up. They’re foodies. They know what good is and they know what not so good is.”

There were four working stations, each for a different recipe that you wouldn’t expect to find in school cafeterias, like kale Caesar salad, pumpkin hummus, broccoli salad and roasted chickpeas.

Salad bar foods was the theme for Monday's lab at Boardman High School.
Salad bar foods was the theme for Monday’s lab at Boardman High School.

“We used to be able to put salads in containers and set them out for the children. Now there’s a new labeling law,” said Natalie Winkle, Food Service Supervisor at Boardman.

For local schools, it’s all about providing farm fresh products without spending a lot of money. The cooks learned how to use ingredients they already have in the pantry.

“Reinvent those items and make them great for our students,” said Amy Merda with FND Consulting Services.

That means making food from scratch and meeting school lunch regulations at the same time.

“A lot of our lunch ladies get a little scared of making things from scratch because they’re scared of doing something wrong,” Beegle said. “We’re showing them that they can get back into basics and they don’t have to be scared, they can be creative.”

Everyone also learned new cutting techniques. Beegle went to the state with the idea to start the pilot program.

“It means a whole lot for our students and for our parents,” she said. “Now we’re going to be able to use farm fresh produce and fresher products, and the students will actually get better food.”

As far as dealing with picky eaters, Merda says parents should prepare meals with them.

“The best thing you can do for a picky eater is cook with them, shop with them…have them pick out one item that they have never tried before and have them help prepare it.”

The culinary labs were made possible by a grant though the Child Nutrition Association, through the Ohio Department of Education. Austintown hosted its labs last week, and Boardman has its final one on Wednesday.

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