Earlier this month the Mushroom Council was invited to serve mushroom blended products at the Vendor Showcase Lunch at School Food Focus. Council Representative, Kathleen Preis, was there to demonstrate how The Blend can transform school lunches.
The Mushroom Council could not have been more honored and grateful for the invitation to serve The Blend at School Food FOCUS at the beginning of the month. Being surrounded by other vendors who are working towards transforming food systems to support students’ academic achievement and lifelong health, while directly benefiting farmers, regional economies, and the environment was incredibly inspiring.
The Mushroom Council Booth
At our booth we sampled a delicious blended Shroom’n Turkey Meatloaf. Foodservice directors eagerly waited for samples; all the while noting how moist and flavorful the meatloaf was – attributing all these wonderful properties to The Blend. It’s amazing how mushrooms can instantly improve any dish they are paired with; that it’s no wonder why mushrooms have become a go-to ingredient for school foodservice directors.
Touring Oakland Unified School District
On the first day at School Food FOCUS we had the amazing opportunity to visit two schools in the Oakland Unified School District. Hosted by Jennifer LeBarre, the school foodservice director for OUSD, we visited the site of the central kitchen being planned for 2016, and learned the strategies being implemented to transform school food in the district. Hearing how dedicating city funds directly to the school foodservice program, and how quickly this massive project is not only being accomplished but supported, was inspirational.
After our central kitchen tour, we traveled to an East Oakland campus to eat lunch and experience “California Thursdays,” a collaborative project between Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and the Center for Ecoliteracy, which showcases dishes made from fresh, California-grown ingredients as part of the California Food for California Kids™ initiative.
Hearing the elementary schools’ favorite meal from the “California Thursday” program was a tofu and noodle dish made me certain students would absolutely devour our mushroom recipes. Capping off the tour, we visited OUSD’s school produce market and a truly spectacular school garden.
If there is anything we can learn for Jennifer and her talented team it’s that slowly introducing scratch cooking dishes to her students and staff can ease the acclimation process and increase acceptance.
Thank you to all the foodservice directors at School Food FOCUS who now recognize mushroom blendability as a realistic technique to transform school lunch at a large district level.
School Food FOCUS, is an collaborative effort funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and a growing number of sponsors, individuals, and private funders, to make school meals nationwide more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced. FOCUS aims to transform food systems to support students’ academic achievement and lifelong health, while directly benefiting farmers, regional economies, and the environment.