United Fresh, salad bar, gets props in Post coverage

03/01/2010 09:03:07 AM
Tom Karst

Ray Gilmer of United Fresh pointed out coverage in the Feb. 28 Washington Post about salad bars in the lunch room, particularly one school in DC where United Fresh donated a refrigerated salad bar. Very good pr for  United Fresh and the value of fresh produce in school meals. Here is the piece:

How a D.C. school puts fresh food on the lunchroom tables

By Lisa Dobbs and Linda Moore
Washington
Sunday, February 28, 2010

In his Feb. 14 Outlook commentary, "In D.C. school cafeterias, a long way from here to healthy," Ed Bruske asked a question on the minds of nearly every school parent, from Michelle Obama on down: How do we make the transition from feeding our children industrial food filled with artificial substances to freshly prepared, whole foods that are healthy for kids? At the Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in Northeast, we think we've found the answer.

This month, we began preparing fresh food from fresh ingredients on site. One recent lunch, for instance, was black bean chicken, jasmine rice, Whole Foods-brand green peas, fresh apple slices tossed with cinnamon and low-fat white milk (chocolate is offered one day a week). The fresh chicken breast comes from a distributor, but it will soon be supplied by a local farmer. All the chicken, garlic, ginger, scallions and black beans that go into the dish are fresh, and we peel and chop everything ourselves.

So how does one get from reheating to fresh cooking?

We do it with a lot of hard work, and a lot of help. Stokes bought a building that was equipped with an antiquated but functioning kitchen. The Vulcan stoves and gas tops are more than half a century old, but after giving them a serious cleaning and turning on the gas for the first time in many years, we are able to cook with them. As Bruske pointed out, most local school kitchens have little actual cooking equipment, a serious impediment to fresh in-school food preparation.
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To cook for and serve the nearly 400 adults and children who make up the Stokes population, we have a kitchen staff of five. We clean up afterward and do the paperwork required to comply with the Agriculture Department's National School Lunch Program in order to receive the reimbursements that are the lifeblood of school lunch service nationwide. If the reimbursements reflected the higher costs of fresh food preparation, more schools would be able to make the transition.


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