DCSD kitchen staff studies healthy meal preparation with professional chefs, dietician
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Darlington County School District Food Services employees sharpened their culinary skills and learned creative cooking techniques last month, continuing to improve the nutritional value and quality of food served to students and their families.
The 40 employees spent a week working alongside professional chefs and a dietician thanks to a generous grant from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.
The valuable training focused on inventive methods of cooking while following nutrition requirements of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Employees learned about fresh spices and ingredients that add flavor without increasing sodium content. There is no longer a single fried dish on the DCSD menu, and the instruction highlighted ways to replace fried dishes with flavorful, nutritional foods. Employees also learned to prepare new soups, sauces, salads, vegetables and other entrees.
Pam Vaughan, director of Food Services in Darlington County School District (DCSD), said she was thankful the employees were able to participate in the program.
“It was excellent training, and the school Food Services employees were very positive about their experiences,” Vaughan said. “We haven't had an opportunity to provide this type of training to our staff before, and it was outstanding. They really got involved, and I am hopeful they will implement many of those skills in our cafeterias.”
The training was provided by Culinary Partners, a nonprofit organization that works with school kitchen staff to train in preparing and marketing healthy foods to students. Eileen Staples, executive director of Culinary Partners, led the instruction. Chefs Tim Page and Danny Edge along with registered dietician Emily Moody assisted in the training. At least one employee from each of the 19 school kitchens in DCSD participated in and completed the program.
Hartsville Middle School hosted the five-day program, and time was split between the classroom and the kitchen.
“As a district, we anticipate improving the quality of school meals, enhancing the taste of foods served in the cafeteria, and achieving a long term goal of making healthier meals for students as a benefit of the training,” Vaughan said.
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina funded a statewide grant to provide the training for more than 400 food services employees during a two-year period. The cost of the program for each location, which is funded by the grant, amounts to about $15,000 and includes the food, supplies and training labor.