Incorporating Traditional Foods in Child Nutrition Program Menus


Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us today.
Today’s webinar is Incorporating Traditional Foods in Child Nutrition Program Menus. I’m
Bob Gorman. I’m the Farm to School Regional Lead in the Mountain Plains region stationed
here in sunny Denver, Colorado. I have two guests with me today. Jenny Montague is a
Nutritionist with USDA. How are you doing today, Jenny? Hey there, Bob. I’m also joined
by Jo Dawson who is the State Director for the Alaska Department of Education. How are
you doing today, Jo? Hi there. Doing great. Thank you. Great, well thanks for joining
us. So real quick I just have one quick housekeeping slide. If you have a question please feel
free to type it in. It’s at the bottom left hand side of your screen. You should see a
little chat box. We are recording this webinar. It should be posted on our website within
a week or two. The PDF of the slides will be emailed to you after the webinar today.
After the webinar if you would please fill out the evaluation form, that’ll come up as
soon as you x out of today’s webinar. A little pop up box will pop up and I think it’s just
three or four questions. Again before I turn it over to Jen I do have a couple of slides
I would like to review. One of them are some of what we call the “new” policy memos. They’ve
been out for a year or two now and I have three of them to review. I sent them to you
yesterday with the reminder email about the webinar. Hopefully you had a chance to review
them. If not, I will send them back out with the thank you email after today’s webinar.
If you didn’t get a chance to read them, I’ll send them to you again and you’ll be able
to check them out. The first one I just briefly want to talk about is the Child Nutrition
Programs and Traditional Foods Policy memo. This basically says that traditional foods
are allowed to be served in Child Nutrition Programs but then also that the USDA encourages
it. We do want to see as many traditional foods being served as possible. The second
one I would like to briefly review is about Service of Traditional Foods in Public Facilities,
which also includes schools. Basically the whole gist of that is that schools may accept
and serve donated, unprocessed traditional foods so again that’s for donated traditional
foods but they have to be unprocessed. Then the last one is the meat one, Procuring Local
Meats. That specifically says that livestock must be slaughtered at a USDA or state inspected
facility to be served in Child Nutrition Programs. It also talks a little bit about shell eggs
that they do not need to be pasteurized. But nevertheless, please take a look at these
policy memos. If you have any questions about them, please feel free to reach out to your
Farm to School regional lead if you have any questions. All right so generally when we’re
talking Farm to School, people often just think of fruits and vegetables. Those are
great as well but Farm to School does extend into the proteins and then of course milk
but Farm to School also goes into traditional foods. As these policy memos were stating,
this includes products like bison, blue corn, local fish like salmon and trout. We’re not
just talking local carrots or apples and stuff like that. It does expand over the whole tray
that kids are served and like I said it could be bison or anything like that. There’s a
lot of great products that you could serve. Here is a great example of a traditional plate.
This was served in Georgia and this has local chicken. That’s an acorn squash and then this
is a corn and bean soup. It looks a lot better than the lunch I had today. I’m sure it’s
a lot more delicious than what I had but again this tray is traditional. It’s beautiful and
it’s a great tray. I’m sure the kids enjoyed it. That’s just a little example of what’s
being done out there. Now I do want to turn it over to our first guest speaker, Jenny
Montague and she is the Nutritionist at Food and Nutrition at the USDA national office
in DC. Go ahead and take it away Jen. Thanks, Bob. First of all I’d like to tell you all
I had so much fun doing research for this webinar. I gathered information by interviewing
people working in school districts and tribal communities in the regions now known as Montana,
Hawaii, Alaska, New Mexico and North Carolina. While I found their approaches to integrating
traditional foods to be unique and varied, the goal is the same; to learn about people,
place and tradition through food. Just as we leave it up to schools to define what local
means, we also leave it up to them to define what using traditional foods means. For some
I learned that means they’re trying to procure foods from some of the 48,000 American Indian,
Alaskan native or Hawaiian Pacific Island farms in operation in the US. For others that
means using domesticated produce in conjunction with native recipes or identifying foods using
native language. I’d like to go over a few of the stories from these amazing districts
that I interviewed and then we’ll get into some details about the specifics of substituting
foods as meal components in the Child Nutrition Programs which can be done in a number of
programs. We’re focusing mostly on the ational School Lunch Program today. Many of the staples
we use in the US and throughout the world originally came from Native American cultures
and land. However, many of the foods have been domesticated and no longer contain the
rich nutrient value that they once did. Many communities and schools are working to procure
or grow versions of these foods that are the same or similar to those that their ancestors
used. This is a photo of students doing a taste test of a traditional bean bread recipes
at Cherokee Central Schools that Janette Broda sent me in Cherokee, North Carolina. She told
me that many of the staff at the kitchen and at the school knows how to cook these traditional
recipes but it’s a real challenge to cook them at the institutional level so scaling
them up and cooking them for the 1,200 students that this school service but they did a fantastic
job here. You can see the recipes were a great success. They did change it to be healthier.
Normally it’s served with a side of grease and they left that out but everyone still
loved the recipe. They also have done other taste tests. Last year a local trout cake
which everyone loved and they’re planning to do different preparations of cabbage, chestnut
bread and they’re hoping to use some wild game as well. Another thing that Cherokee
Central Schools is doing and many schools in tribal communities, they’re choosing to
grow traditional vegetables. We all know that students who participate in growing vegetables
are more likely to try them. A lot of times these heirloom vegetables can be hard to find,
to procure so this provides the vegetables themselves and the experiential learning.
As I mentioned, this school service 1,200 students Pre-K through 12 and this school
is also incorporating traditional foods. It’s always been an intention for this school district.
The school was built to include many features that help incorporate traditional art and
culture like basket weaving designs and wood use from the land here. They also have a greenhouse
and garden beds. They’re working to get GAAP certified so they can use more of the produce
that they’re growing in school lunch. Another special way that Cherokee Central Schools
is using their culture in their food program is by using their traditional language for
certain foods on their menu and on the signs in their school garden which you saw in the
previous slide. In February this year, they highlighted the apple which I will mispronounce,
sv-ga-ta. Something like that. It’s tough to pronounce if you’re not used to using this
language. They also locally grow apples in addition to lettuce and cabbage which are
highlighted on this menu. On the right you see children’s illustrations of fruits and
vegetables with the Cherokee names for those products. As Bob mentioned, traditional foods
can count towards the required components of a meal requirements here, either the five
meal requirements; fruits, vegetables, milk, grains and meat or meat alternates. We’ll
go through a couple of the different requirements. Meat or meat alternates including beans and
rare meats. Fruits, vegetables including many from the different vegetable subgroups such
as dark green, red, orange, legume, starchy and other. Grains using traditional grains
generally credit as whole grains which is a great benefit of course. And sometimes the
same ingredients can credit in different components depending on how they’re processed or used
in the meal. For example, beans or corn can be processed into flour or used as corn kernels.
Just to remind everybody, students are required to take at least three components of a meal
including at least half a cup of fruits or vegetables for the national School Lunch Program.
We’ll talk about beans. Here we have our white and brown Tepary beans used to serve schools
on the Tohono O’odham Nation which can be substituted as a meat or meat alternate. Beans
can also meet the legume requirement of vegetables. This particular recipe here was so popular
that the food service management company, Sodexo, made it a regular feature on the menu.
They tried it once and it went over so well that it’s now featured on a monthly basis,
which is fantastic. Protein substitutions. Here we have bison or venison, which can be
substituted in Child Nutrition Programs standardized recipes like burgers or chili, anything that
calls for meat or they can be used in traditional recipes. One of the schools we talked to makes
venison acorn stew. The yield for venison or bison are similar to beef. You can find
out that information using the Food Buying Guide. Not all of the traditional foods, of
course, are included in the Food Buying Guide but you can find a food that’s most similar
to the one you’re using to determine what the yield is and what the crediting is. I
can get into that a little more and answer questions. We also have an email that I’ll
leave later if people have specific questions about that.
Many schools use fish, which is a super healthy protein option. I think they’ll talk about
that a little more when our speaker from Alaska comes on but salmon, cod, trout and other
fish are important traditional foods and can be used in kid friendly recipes. One of the
recipes that we have here is from the First Lady’s student recipe contest, the roasted
fish crispy slaw. Fish can be used in a traditional way or included in many of these recipes.
Grain substitutions. Of course intact grains or flours such as amaranth, barley, quinoa
are healthy substitutes for any other grain in a grain salad or a baked good. Wild rice
can be substituted for other rice options and can be served sprouted, puffed or as a
flour. Blue cornmeal can be served in the traditional mush or used in other recipes
that call for cornmeal. I found in many cases recipes that call for a pasta you could also
substitute a grain in those cases and make the recipes healthier in the process. Fruits
are of course popular with kids. Some of the native fruits include blueberries, huckleberries,
concord grapes and pineapple. There are others especially the tropical islands but they can
be served fresh or as part of a recipe. Traditional whole fruits can be combined with other fruits
and vegetables in smoothies. That’s of course a popular and trendy preparation method these
days or you can buy value added products that incorporate these products. Because some of
these fruits are more expensive, some schools have found that the fresh fruits and vegetable
program is a good way because the goal of the program is to expose students to new fruits
and vegetables and provide nutrition education so it gives you an outlet to talk about some
of the cultural significance of these products. Vegetable substitutions. As we talked about,
corn can be both a vegetable or a grain so native whole blue or white corn credits towards
the starchy vegetable subgroup. Navajo corn and squash soup has been popular at star schools
who spoke on our previous webinar. They can be substituted in kid-tested USDA recipes
such as Mexicali corn or corn and green bean casserole. Also indigenous varieties of other
vegetables such as pumpkin, red peppers credit towards the red/orange subgroup. And then
as we mentioned the beans, legume and of course potatoes into the starchy subgroup. Another
school that I spoke to in Molokai is working with Food Corp Service members and they have
been using taro root to prepare the traditional poi which is a staple. They’re using taro
in the traditional preparation and then also it can be prepared in other ways or substituted
for sweet potato or parsnip. It actually already is in the Food Buying Guide and credits as
a starchy vegetable. Some of the fruits and vegetables that you will find don’t necessarily
credit because they’re not used in a quantity that allows them to such as acorns which don’t
have enough protein to qualify as a meat or meat alternate but they do impart flavor and
of course contribute to the cultural significance of these foods. A little goes a long way so
even if they are expensive they do a lot for these things. Other examples are ramps in
North Carolina, syrup from birch trees in Alaska and miner’s lettuce and juniper berries.
As Bob mentioned, the USDA encourages schools and childcare programs to incorporate traditional
foods into their Child Nutrition Programs because they bring cultural significance and
improve nutrition to the children in their communities. For more information you can
contact your state agency representatives and your regional Farm to School leads for
questions about procurement or you can email the nutritionist at the Nutrition and Technical
Assistance Branch of Child Nutrition Programs for questions about the Food Buying Guide
and crediting of traditional foods. We are here to help. Thank you so much, Jenny. I
think it’s great how food service management companies, not just Sodexo, but a variety
of them including self-op operations, are serving these traditional foods. It’s really
great. Before I turn it over to Jo if anybody has any questions please feel free to go ahead
and type them in the chat box and we’ll try to get to them at the end. Go had Jo.
Hi, thank you so much. Today I’m going to discuss a little bit how in Alaska we have
been able to really support the use of traditional foods in the array of Child Nutrition Programs
we have in our state. This is a poster that we worked on with the Farm to School coordinator.
This is one of our first collaborative projects in really trying to help students see in Alaska
where their food is coming from. A lot of our food does come from the lower 48 and it’s
good to know that we actually are growing food or harvesting food, catching food here
in Alaska. Because of the high interest by so many of our Child Nutrition Program operators
whether its schools, childcare programs, Head Start or summer food agencies there are a
lot of opportunities in our state for partnerships in supporting traditional foods. We definitely
see its importance in the meal plans throughout our state. On this slide here it’s a poster
series and there’s an accompanying toolkit. This project was headed up by the University
of Alaska. We were just one of many partner agencies to collaborate in the development
of this toolkit. Besides our agency there were other governmental agencies involved
in this as well as tribal entities, non-profit agencies, even food service management companies
all helping to develop this toolkit which provides a lot of information on the foods
that can be donated in Alaska, the foods that cannot, preparation storage and processing.
I think this was just released I want to say about six months or so ago and distributed
widely across our state. Despite all of our efforts, there still exists a misperception
that our programs cannot accept traditional foods. When we hear that I really like to
refer back to the definition provided by the Farm Bill which really lists those items that
are supported as traditional foods and ask specifically what foods can we not accept
because so many are really covered by the Farm Bill. When we receive questions from
program operators on specific traditional foods that might not be in the Food Buying
Guide, such as what Jenny was saying, the nutritionist that we work with at our USDA
regional office has always been really great at working with us so we could determine the
credibility of traditional foods and be able to provide that to program operators. Overcoming
the perception that traditional foods are not allowable or not creditable has been difficult
and we just continue to outreach on it so that programs really understand what foods
they can accept and how to integrate them into their program operations. We are lucky
in Alaska that we have a very close relationship with our State Department of Environmental
Conservation. That is who does our Alaska food code. They do the food permits. We’ve
been able to provide a lot of guidance and resources to our nutrition programs in Alaska
based on the Alaska food code. As you can see from this slide, there’s a lot of traditional
foods that are allowed to be donated to nutrition programs. We have the wild game meat, seafood
and plants. We provide them additional information on what they should check for if they’re receiving
their food, how to process it, how to store it and provide that other information but
we are very lucky to have that relationship with the other state agencies on inspections.
As well our Alaska food code does prohibit certain foods. This information is also in
that poster series but there are certain foods that by regulation are not allowed to be served
that can be determined as traditional. Our State Department of Environmental Conservation
though is really willing to work with schools or Head Start agencies on a variance process.
If there is a situation where a school wants to serve seal oil, our Environmental Conservation
is willing to work with them on a variance to see what that would look like, how they
would make sure that risks would be mitigated. I think that’s really important that they
can go through that process if it’s something that is important to them and be able to document
what controls they have in place to make sure the food being served is safe. One of the
other barriers we ran into was actually in the Farm Bill which stated that the donation
to and serving of traditional foods through Food Service Programs at public facilities
and non-profit facilities including facilities operated by Indian tribes and facilitated
by tribal organizations that primarily serve Indians. In Alaska only half of our districts
are primarily Alaskan Native or American Indian so that language in the Farm Bill did somewhat
prevent some of our school districts from being able to receive those donations. The
reality is that supply is our biggest issue when it comes to traditional foods in schools.
Receiving enough of any one traditional food to be able to serve a meal to all students.
We do see much more use of noncommercial traditional foods in our smaller programs such as a Head
Start agency or childcare program where the serving sizes aren’t as large, the population
isn’t quite as big. It is very interesting to note that the reality of barriers is so
much different than the perception of barriers. Our Farm to School coordinator in Alaska,
Johanna Herron, conducted a study last year to determine what the real barriers are to
serving local and traditional foods in school meals. We really just couldn’t figure out
why everyone thought they couldn’t do it. We kept outreaching and yet that perception
was still out there. Looking at this slide you can see that folks in school nutrition
really acknowledge that the supply is their top issue. Preferences there, there are some
regulations they have to work through and then cost and equipment but for folks not
in school nutrition they really believe that the regulatory issues were the top barrier
preventing traditional foods in school. I thought that was really interesting to note.
Those are the people who say well we need to do this. We need to allow it. We come back
to but we do allow it. How can we help you? We really want to keep supporting that. Further
the districts who are actively serving traditional foods in their menu indicated again that supply
was their biggest hurdle. The districts who are not providing traditional foods again
stated that the state and federal regulations were their barrier so in a lot of ways those
schools not serving the traditional foods are allowing their perception of the barrier
to become a barrier. They’re not really getting past that. Knowing that supply is the biggest
issue for a lot of our schools, commercial resources have been the way to insure that
traditional foods have been able to provide for school meals. One of our best examples
of out of the box thinking started in 2007 by Patty Luckhurst in Dillingham Alaska. Dillingham
is a very small community of about 2,000 residents. It’s off the road system like most of our
communities in Alaska, several hundred miles away from our largest city. Most of their
resources are brought in by barge or plane. The Food Service Director there, Patty Luckhurst,
had this brain child of an idea to work with the local fish processing plant and local
fishermen, commercial fishermen for donations. The cannery is donating the labor of gutting,
filleting and vacuum sealing, flash freezing the fish from a district. They established
a designated donation day during the sockeye season. Sockeye is a kind of salmon for anyone
who doesn’t know. This program began in 2007 and still continues. These designated donation
days bring in about 12,000 pounds of donated salmon that are received and processed into
flash frozen fillets. This district service fish once a week and families are invited
to have lunch with their children and partake in the meal. It’s a pretty awesome site because
the whole community has participated in this process and they’re very proud to come and
share the meal with their children or grandchildren. There’s a lot of community pride as a result
of this by those families contributing in such a meaningful way. So much salmon is received
annually through this program that this district actually also shares with another school district,
Southwest Region School District, their area Head Start agencies and a senior center. While
this is our only large scale commercial donation program, actually many of our Alaska school
districts have close partnerships with their local fish processing plants to provide good
fish to school programs. Four years ago in Alaska our state provided noncompetitive grant
funding through the Department of Commerce to support school district purchase of local
foods. This was very popular funding with our districts but the funding was determined
annually so it was very difficult for schools or growers or producers to plan in advance
on the funds. The purchases were made from an array of Alaska grown or harvested products
but because of that short planning season each year about one-third of the funding was
lapsed. The funding only lasted for three years. One of the impacts of this program
was the ability to assess what schools would purchase locally with those monies. Seafood
was the largest expenditure of the grant funds. Because it’s easy to get year-round there
was a strong market for it in schools. What we were finding is that the districts had
few standardized recipes for seafood that met the USDA nutritional requirements. We
had a lot of school nutrition staff in our state looking for direction on how to prepare
these local foods particularly the raw seafood. To meet the need for the recipes using Alaska
grown and harvested products that are less common in the lower 48 such as salmon, reindeer
and caribou, we developed a cookbook for schools, childcare centers and residential childcare
institutions to prepare their menu items from scratch using locally grown products in those
recipes. Through a grant from the USDA Team Nutrition, our department worked in collaboration
with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in the Farm to School program
on that cookbook called Make It Local: Recipes for Alaska Children. This was a pretty exciting
process to go through. Utilizing the Cooperative Extension test kitchen as well as on-site
meal service at a local area school we were able to develop or modify exciting recipes
using local foods. We created standardized recipes that could be used at school or with
portion reductions at our child and adult care food programs. The recipes were then
tried out with the school children for taste testing. One of the first things that stood
out after the first round was that taste testing with children reflected disinclination towards
some of the seafood products. Rather than taking those recipes out of the project, we
instead looked at the demographics of the school we were testing at which was a fairly
large school in an urban center. We added another site with youth from rural Alaska
whose diets regularly included traditional foods. This was a very successful move for
us. Many of the recipes that were at risk for removal from the project due to poor acceptance
were modified and retested on this second group of children and many were found to be
very successful. After the release of the cookbook, there came an unintentional but
rather strong media blitz when we provided these across the state. We saw a lot of interest
in these cookbooks, even to programs outside the Child Nutrition Programs. That was really
heartening to see how many people across our state were very interested in this project.
All across Alaska we continue to see seafood and other traditional scratch cooked foods
in our school menus. We were worried that this might just be short lived but it has
really been able to carry on and the acceptance has been phenomenal with many of the districts.
I think we have one left here. Again this is Dillingham who has seafood on their recipe
at least every Friday. As you can see from this menu, they have it on halibut as well
on their menu so they’re serving very healthy, local food through their Child Nutrition Programs.
Another part of our cookbook project was just providing nutritional specifications for traditional
foods that they might not normally find in the Food Buying Guide. Beach asparagus is
one that we had actually worked with our USDA nutritionist quite a few years ago on the
nutrition facts because it is a very popular traditional food. That is the end of my presentation.
Thank you so much, Jo. Any quick questions. Can we get our hands on this cookbook? Where
is it? Absolutely you can. We are in the process of a couple of modifications. I think we just
— we’re in the process of reposting it on our website so you can download it. I think
my information was on the invitation to the webinar or you can contact us and we can send
people a printed copy. Great. Thank you so much. I’m sorry today, we’ve run way over
but I’d still like to thank our presenters today. They did an awesome job. If you have
any questions go ahead and type them in but I want to be respectful of everybody’s time
so we’re not going to get to the questions today but if you did ask a question we will
respond back to you via email. It’ll probably take us a few days but we will get back to
you. I do apologize for us running over. I also want to remind you of our next webinar
which is May 4th at 3:00 Eastern Standard Time. Again thank you for attending. We hope
to see you again soon. Thank you, everyone.

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