Ennis school children got a unique taste of whole grains last Wednesday as three local chefs whipped up some tasty creations as part of the federal program, Chef’s Move to School and National Whole Grains Day.
Chefs Move to School is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, which is geared at getting children more active to combat childhood obesity and help promote good nutrition, said Kris Inman, who helped organize the event for Madison Farm To Fork.
Madison Farm to Fork has been working with the Ennis School for the last couple of years to enhance their Farm to School program. Part of that program has been providing opportunity for locally grown produce for the school lunches, Inman said.
The Farm to School program has included tasting events where kids got to try Montana grown apples and locally grown carrots, she said. The program is also expanding to include classroom gardens on the school grounds where teachers and students can learn about growing vegetables.
Tammy Wham runs the cafeteria at the school and works hard to provide kids with a wide variety of healthy foods. She was recognized for her efforts with an educational trip to Fredericksburg, Va to learn about food safety. She was one of four Montana school chefs selected for the trip.
Wham welcomes the help from the Farm to School program and was excited at the opportunity to have local chefs in her kitchen.
The Chefs Move to School event featured whole grain granola bars by Pit Stop Pizza and Grill owner John Rolfe. Amy Kelley, owner and chef at the Gravel Bar, made a savory purple barley salad. And Frank Canterbury, a local private chef, brought whole grain cookies.
The event was a success and kids were excited to try some new things, Inman said.
“The kids always love it when there’s something to sample,” she said. “It was great for the chefs to see the kids enthusiasm and willingness to try something new.”
The Ennis School is lucky to have Wham and her skilled kitchen crew, Inman said. Not only has Wham been willing to try new things, but she’s been enthusiastic about working with the Farm to School program to find ways to help bring more local produce and healthy foods into the cafeteria.
One way the Farm to School program has helped is to try and provide not only new ideas, but willing hands to help Wham and her staff, she said.
When you have to feed 300 kids a day, it’s hard to find the time to try new things, Inman said. What Farm to School does is to work with Wham to help develop new ideas and try different programs, like the Chefs Move to School.
“We already have a relationship and presence with the Ennis School and the cafeteria so it’s a natural way to move into this program,” she said.
The ultimate goal is to feed kids healthy and delicious foods, as well as teaching them the importance of eating healthy, said Christine Canterbury, who is the director of nursing at the Madison Valley Manor and who helped organize the event. Her husband Frank was one of the chefs.
“If we were to help educate children at this age to make good choices that would carry on for a lifetime,” Canterbury said.
Wham agrees and works hard at the school to provide not only healthy food, but meals children look forward to.
“We do not want healthy foods that the kids do not want to eat,” Wham said.
She also strives for diversity in the kitchen and never serves the same meal twice in one month.
Still it takes time for kids to get used to trying new things, which makes it even more important that they get healthy options at home. Wham encourages parents to cook a variety of vegetables for their children and keep the ketchup and ranch dressing off the table.
“Don’t feed your kid ketchup with every meal,” she said.
Also, it’s important to find a way to make fruits and vegetables a positive part of a child’s diet, not a punishment or a threat.
“Don’t make the vegetables the evil part of the meal,” Wham said with a chuckle.