School Meals Program: Every Child Deserves a Hot Meal

October 5, 2017

Imagine dicing 50 pounds of carrots. Or cutting oranges for three hours (albeit with one of the best views in town from Pacific Tower, site of our School Meals Program).
FareStart's Adult Culinary Program students play a huge role in preparing over 2,600 meals a day that are delivered five days a week to childcare centers, grade schools, after-school programs and elder daycare centers  -- all served by FareStart's School Meals Program. 
"Our goal is to make the meals we serve a child or senior their best and most nutritious meal of the day," says Chef Diana Prine, school meals kitchen manager. "It's especially important because many of the children don't get a hot meal at home." 

The biggest challenge is developing kid-friendly recipes, since children can be picky eaters, while ensuring each meal meets federal nutrition guidelines. It calls for creativity on the part of the chefs. One favorite is the mac and cheese, which introduces vegetables such as butternut squash into a child's diet without their knowing it. FareStart works with a registered dietician, who analyzes each individual meal, to make sure it meets daily USDA guidelines. 
During the weeks they spend at Pacific Tower, students rotate through several stations: making entrees, sack lunches, vegetarian/allergen-free and snack/breakfast meals and start to work as a team. They practice bulk recipe conversions and discover the importance of ordering the right amount of product. 
"We want our students to get better; to see their growth while they're here is amazing. We can really make a difference in their lives," says Chef Diana.
With over 474,000 meals delivered last year through the School Meals Program, Contract Meals Director Michael Friedman attributes the program's success to the fact that the sites served understand that this is a training program for students and want to support it. It's a great combination of students learning to give back, while they move forward in transforming their lives.