Oregon School Cafeteria Makes It from Scratch Here's a word you don't associate with the school cafeteria: fresh. But last year, Abernathy Elementary School in Portland, Ore., bought a second-hand stove and a big mixer and started cooking all its food from scratch. Success is measured by the trash: Kids are throwing less food away.
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Oregon School Cafeteria Makes It from Scratch

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Oregon School Cafeteria Makes It from Scratch

Oregon School Cafeteria Makes It from Scratch

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

Today in Your Health, good food in a place you might not expect to find it. No offense to those who runs school cafeterias, but many of us expect to find reheated chicken strips and warmed-over French fries as the standard fare. But as some who run school cafeterias know, many are trying to change.

NPR's Jane Greenhalgh visited an elementary school in Portland Oregon where a school chef cooks all the food from scratch.

JANE GREENHALGH: The effort to bring healthy, and nutritious, and tasty food to Abernathy Elementary really starts here in the school's vegetable garden. And I have Kimbell(ph) and Divina(ph) and Bella(ph) here to show us around. What grade are you in?

KIMBELL (Third Grade Student): Third.

DIVINA (Third Grade Student): Third.

BELLA (Third Grade Student): Third.

Unidentified Child#1: We've got carrot right here.

Unidentified Child#2: I think these are ready -

Unidentified Child#1: Radishes and then that fresh chard right there.

GREENHALGH: Do you like working in the garden, planting and harvesting in your garden?

Unidentified Child#1: Yeah, it's fun.

Unidentified Child#2: We got to pick the stuff from the garden that we've grown.

Unidentified Child#3: And then after we pick it, we get to cook it into some dish and then we get to try it.

GREENHALGH: And does this make you want to eat it more?




GREENHALGH: That's a good answer because everything in this special program - in the garden, in the classroom and in the kitchen - is designed to get these children a better appreciation for food. The man who cooks it is the school chef James Fowler. Let's go find him.

Hello, James.

Mr. JAMES FOWLER (Chef, Abernathy Elementary): Hello. You caught me just in time to mince some garlic.

GREENHALGH: And what are you cooking for lunch today?

Mr. FOWLER: See, we're going to have pumpkin and sage risotto.

GREENHALGH: Pumpkin and sage risotto, that sounds like a great Thanksgiving dish, but not a typical school lunch.

Mr. FOWLER: Not necessarily, but we're trying to change typical school lunch.

(Soundbite of slicing)

GREENHALGH: What's the recipe?

Mr. FOWLER: It's onions, garlic, some leeks from the school garden, butternut squash, some acorn squash, some delicata squash too, sage, arboreal rice and homemade stock. I'm adding the garlic to the onions and leeks.

(Unintelligible) in here, and olive oil. That's one thing you won't get in our kitchen, hydrogenated fats at all - trans fats. There are stills a couple of corn syrups lurking in dark corners. But hopefully, they'll be out of here before long, too. Throw a little bit of salt in.

(Soundbite of Sautéing)

Ms. PAULEEN SIEGFRIED(ph) (Third Grade Teacher): Boy does it smells good; we've been smelling them upstairs all morning.

GREENHALGH: Are you a teacher?

Ms. SIEGFRIED: Yes, I am. I teach Third Grade here.

GREENHALGH: What's your name?

Ms. SIEGFRIED: Pauleen Siegfried. Oh, I can't wait for lunch.

GREENHALGH: All right now, it's time to go and see what's going on in the classroom.

(Soundbite of clapping)

Ms. PAT HAVERSON(ph) (Food and Garden Teacher): Okay, good. We're going to get started today and we're going to learn about the plants of the week.

I'm Pat Haverson. I'm the food and garden teacher.

So the first thing we're going to do is we're going to figure out what the plant of the week is. So I need one volunteer to stick your hand in this jar and see if you can tell me what you think it is. Ivan.

IVAN: Carrot.

Ms. HAVERSON: Carrot. Good, yes, the plant of the week is carrot. Okay, let's learn about why the carrots are good for us.

IVAN: Vitamin A is also called Retinol.

Ms. HAVERSON: Yes, good.

IVAN: It is necessary for health, vision, and also helps create strong bones and teeth, as for a strong immune system.

Ms. HAVERSON: Great, thank you very much. Okay, so we're going to go down to the garden and harvest some carrots.

(Soundbite of students)

Ms. HAVERSON: Raise your hand if you think you know where the carrots are growing. Good, and everybody is allowed to pick one carrot.

(Soundbite of students)

Unidentified Child#1: I got two.

Unidentified Child#2: Wow.

Unidentified Child#3: Now, you, Deli(ph), you want a different-colored one?

Unidentified Child#4: That one's huge.

Unidentified Child#5: I've got five orange carrots.

Unidentified Child#6: Mine is a lady's boot.

Ms. HAVERSON: So everybody has their carrots? Make sure you hold on to them. When we you go upstairs, we're going to bring them to James and we're going to see what he needs.

(Soundbite of students)

GREENHALGH: Back in the kitchen, Chef James is putting those carrots to good use.

Mr. FOWLER: This is our carrot soup. It's actually got a lot of things in it today. It's got tomato, carrot, orange, basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, onion, and garlic.


Mr. FOWLER: Check out that risotto.

Oh, beautiful.

GREENHALGH: Looks great.

Mr. FOWLER: Get the cheese all stirred in. Oh boy, I think they'll like it. Gosh, I hope they like it. I hope they try it. If they try it, they'll like it.

Howdy guys. Anybody want risotto? It's really good.

Unidentified Child #1: Excuse me. What is that?

Mr. FOWLER: That's the pumpkin risotto. Who wants to try it?

Unidentified Child #1: Oh

Unidentified Child #2: No.

Unidentified Child #3: Oh, not me.

Mr. FOWLER: You guys want to taste some risotto? Are you sure, not even just a little bite? Hey, how are you? You want to taste some risotto? All right.

Unidentified Child #4: Can I have a taste? Oh, it's delicious.

Unidentified Child #5: Let me have some.

Mr. FOWLER: All right. Keep them coming. You guys want to taste this?

Unidentified Child #6: I think it's really good.

Unidentified Child #7: Yeah. It has rice, cheese and pumpkin.

Unidentified Child #8: That's good.

Mr. FOWLER: Hi, Destiny(ph). Want to try some soup?

DESTINY: Sure, I'll take some soup. What kind of soup is it?

Mr. FOWLER: Tomato carrot.


(Soundbite of children playing)

Mr. FOWLER: The nutrition aspect is just one small part of it, I think. It's just as important, in my opinion, to change the aesthetic of school food, to make kids really think of food in a good light.

GREENHALGH: And it seems to be working. Children at this school eat more fruits and vegetables than other Portland schools. And they enjoy their food. They throw less of it away.

Jane Greenhalgh, NPR News.

Mr. FOWLER: Tomato carrot soup?

LILY: Yes, please.

Mr. FOWLER: There you go, Lily.

INSKEEP: You can find recipes from the Abernathy Scratch Kitchen for pumpkin and sage risotto, and last of summer provencal soup. You too can eat like you're in a cafeteria, tastes just like school made. Go to npr.org.

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