Food Service Champions
Ready to add vegetarian or vegan options to your lunchroom? Learn how other food service professionals successfully improved the healthfulness of school lunch programs around the country! The Physicians Committee school food team can connect you with one of our champions listed below. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get connected.
Toña Aguilar’s successful school lunch program includes:
- Entrées made from scratch
- All-vegetarian menu
- Fundraising for kitchen equipment
- Strategic use of healthful USDA foods
Toña Aguilar co-coordinates the Village School Kitchen in Eugene, Ore. This public charter school serves 200 students and teachers through the National School Lunch Program, with more than 54 percent of students on free or reduced lunch.
The Village Kitchen now serves a made-from-scratch vegetarian menu packed with fresh, mostly organic ingredients. A meat-free menu, although implemented in stages, resulted in time saved in the kitchen for prep and clean-up and cost savings.
The Village Kitchen also keeps costs down by buying nutrient-dense ingredients like grains and beans in bulk, and using a simplified menu with one main entrée and a full salad bar each day. The kitchen prioritizes local ingredients, with some vegetables and herbs coming directly from the school’s garden. All lunches include fresh fruit and unlimited salad bar access.
Kitchen staff members involve students in deciding what will be served and bring it to the lunchroom. Students harvest produce in the garden, volunteer in the kitchen, write out daily menu boards, and participate in taste tests. Nutrition education by staff members and cooking classes from the curriculum encourage students to make healthy choices in the cafeteria.
These efforts paid off: Approximately 70 percent of students participate in the Village School’s lunch program daily, compared with the national average of 56 percent. Along with increased participation in the program, volunteer participation increased thanks to parents and community members who want to contribute their time and energy to bringing healthy food into the school system.
One of the Village Kitchen’s most popular meals is the Sushi Bowl:
Village School Sushi Bowl
Yield: 200 servings
- 18 pounds, 12 ounces brown rice
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Put 3 pounds, 2 ounces brown rice each into 6 hotel pans. Pour 3 quarts boiling water over rice in each pan. Cover pans and bake in oven for one hour. Remove from oven, stir 3/4 cup sushi seasoning into each pan.
Sushi Rice Seasoning
- 3 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons salt
Heat all ingredients in a pan over medium-low heat until dissolved.
- 1/4 cup coriander, ground
- 1/2 cup fresh garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 cup fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 1/2 cups tamari, wheat free
- 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 24 ounces orange juice concentrate
- 4 cups water
- 27 1/2 pounds extra-firm tofu sliced into 2.2 ounce slabs and pressed
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Mix marinade ingredients thoroughly.
Oil 4 sheet pans with oil. Lay tofu slabs in a single layer on sheet pans. Pour marinade equally over each pan. Let sit for 20 minutes, then flip tofu and let sit for another 20 minutes. Bake tofu for 20 minutes. Flip tofu and bake for another 20 minutes. Serve immediately or hold in warmer through service.
Place one 3/4 cup scoop brown rice in each bowl with one 2.2-ounce slice of tofu and three pieces of .625 grams toasted nori.
3/4 cup rice, 2.2-ounce slice baked tofu, 1.875 grams toasted nori.
One serving = 1.5 grain ounce equivalent and 1 ounce equivalent m/ma
The Coalition for Healthy School Food program includes:
- Cool School Food Program
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program (operated from 2008 – 2010)
Amie Hamlin is the executive director and co-founder of the Coalition for Healthy School Food (CHSF), a nonprofit that introduces plant-based foods and nutrition education to benefit the whole school community. CHSF began in 2004 by writing a legislative resolution for the New York State Legislature, which passed unanimously, that asked schools to offer plant-based entrées at every meal, provide nutrition education, promote farm to school programs, and more. CHSF then went to work to implement the recommendations of the resolution by developing and introducing plant-based entrées in schools, piloting a fresh fruit and vegetable snack program, creating a nutrition education curriculum, which it teaches in four New York City schools every week, educational resources, and more.
Through its Cool School Food program, CHSF introduced plant-based options in New York by partnering with businesses and organizations to develop and implement made-from-scratch, plant-based meals in school cafeterias. The program markets the recipes with promotional events and educational materials. In 2013, the Cool School Food program and NYC DOE Office of SchoolFood teamed up to launch the first-ever vegetarian public school at P.S. 244Q, the Active Learning Academy. Principal Bob Groff attributes the improvements in academic achievement, BMI, and absenteeism to the new food program. In 2014, they added a second vegetarian school, Peck Slip in Manhattan. The Cool School Food Partnership is currently in three school districts: New York City, Ithaca, and Southern Cayuga, and the Coalition works to help many other schools as well. Use CHSF’s recipes>
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program was founded in 2008 in conjunction with the local food co-op’s Community Projects Committee, and operated by the Coalition for two years before turning it over to another organization, and it has thrived and expanded since then. It is a privately funded version of the federal program. Through donations, CHSF provided fresh fruit and vegetables as snacks in the classrooms at an elementary school in the Ithaca City School District. CHSF has created a guide for other schools to implement the program where they are. This guide can be requested from the Coalition.
One of the Coalition for Healthy School Food’s most popular recipes is Fiesta Mexican Lasagna.
Fiesta Mexican Lasagna
Yield 50 Servings
In this south-of-the-border recipe, chips take the place of noodles, and black beans and roasted squash and vegetables dramatically increase the nutrient density. This delicious lasagna was chosen for the USDA cookbook created from the Recipes for Kids Challenge contest. Olé!
Recipe created by the Cool School Food Team for the Recipes for Kids Challenge contest submission from Ithaca, N.Y. Team members included chef Wynnie Stein, co-owner of Moosewood Restaurant; Denise Agati, food service director for the Ithaca City School District Child Nutrition Program; Erick Smith, co-owner of Cayuga Pure Organics; students Alyia C. and Josie W., and Amie Hamlin, executive director of the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food (www.HealthySchoolFood.org).
- 2 cups peppers, sweet green, raw, chopped
- 3 pounds yellow onions, fresh, chopped
- 1/2 gallon corn, canned, whole-kernel, drained
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, canola
- 1 gallon butternut squash (3 1/2 pounds)
- 1 gallon plus 2 quarts plus 2 cups cooked unsalted black beans (9 1/2 pounds)
- 5 1/2 teaspoons cumin, ground
- 1/2 cup plus 4 teaspoons oregano, ground (1 1/2 ounces)
- 4 teaspoons garlic, granulated
- 4 teaspoons chili powder
- 4 teaspoons paprika
- 5 pounds tomato sauce
- 3.5 pounds mild salsa, tomato, canned
- 3 pounds tortilla chips, unsalted
- Combine peppers, 1/2 the onions, and corn in 1 tablespoon of oil. Roast at 350 F uncovered for 20 minutes.
- Peel squash, remove seeds, cut in chunks, and steam for 15 minutes or until tender.
- Mash squash and add roasted vegetables. Add 4 teaspoons cumin and 1/2 cup of oregano (reserving 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin and 4 teaspoons oregano for next step).
- Sauté remaining onions, remaining cumin, granulated garlic, chili powder, remaining oregano, paprika, and salt in remaining oil until soft. Combine with black beans in food processor until smooth.
- Combine tomato sauce and salsa.
- Layer sauce, chips, bean mixture, squash/vegetable filling, chips, beans, chips, and then sauce in 2 4-inch-deep full hotel pans (spray pans to prevent sticking).
- Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes.
HACCP: Always wash hands prior to handling food. Wear disposable gloves while handling food. Follow HACCP defrosting and holding procedures.
For one serving: 1 cup (5 x 5 inch square)
- Calories: 299
- Total fat: 3g
- Saturated fat: 0.5g
- Protein: 6g
- Sodium: 457mg
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Contributes to NSLP meal pattern:
2 M/MA, 1 cup Vegetable, 1 Grain/Bread
Meets Alliance school meals criteria for legumes, lean protein and low fat entrée.