Update From The Cafeteria

Update From The Cafeteria

By Jenny Osburn | The Union Street Cafe Cookbook | jennyosburn.com

I’ve been thinking about school food for over a decade, but I got serious about learning everything I could after selling the restaurant in 2015. This past May l felt ready to put my 23 years as a chef and 15 years as a restaurant owner towards making a difference at one of my three kids’ schools. I popped my head into the Berwick School cafeteria and offered to lend a hand. The principal and cafeteria staff there welcomed me in and we got down to business! Since then we have accomplished some things we’re proud to share:

•We now offer a daily salad bar that comes free with every lunch.

•We switched to re-useable plates and cutlery, saving over 2,000 plastic forks and paper plates already.

•We have gone from serving about 5% local food to well over 90% in September and October.

•We have nearly tripled lunch sales, allowing us to increase paid staff time by 33%.

•We switched from processed chicken and beef patties and nuggets to local chicken, dried beans, and grass-fed beef that we prepare from scratch. It actually costs LESS to provide this high quality food to children! We now buy from nearly twenty Nova Scotian producers and farmers, many of whom deliver right to the school.

•We have trained an awesome team of students who assist with vegetable prep on a daily basis.

•We have provided nearly 300 free lunches for kids who needed a nourishing meal.

There is so much more to do to ensure that this program is sustainable for the long-term, including improving distribution systems and creating a system for children to access free or subsidized lunches in a non-stigmatizing way. Winter will add new challenges to our locally-focussed menu. We are working on a plan for these opportunities and excited to see the positive response of students and families!

One parent said, “I’ve been offering salad to my son since he cut his teeth! It was a non-starter. Since the introduction of the salad bar, he now wants spinach and pea shoots on everything! He seems more willing to try new things and we even make mini salad bars at home. It’s been great, and I think when little people see their friends chowing down on healthy food, they’re more inclined to follow suit.”

This delicious chicken salad goes quickly at our popular Build Your Own Sub and Wrap Bar!

Curried Chicken Salad with Apples

4 C diced apple (leave skin on)
2 C finely diced celery
8 C diced chicken
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 C mayonnaise
½ C plain yogurt
½ C minced red or green onion
½ tsp salt

Combine everything in a large bowl and combine thoroughly. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Jenny Osburn is the author of The Union Street Café Cookbook. Her second collaboration with Laura MacDonald of Deep Hollow Print, The Kitchen Party Cookbook, is now available! Find more recipes at jennyosburn.com and see what she’s up to on instagram at jenny.osburn