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Learning to get back to scratch
REGION -- There's some exciting changes going on in cafeterias in the RSU 10 and SAD 44, thanks in part to a recent workshop.
On Oct. 28-29, six people from RSU 10 and SAD 44 went to Waldoboro to attend a two-day train the trainer event called "Back to Scratch." There were tours and field trips set to meat processing plants, vegetable processing plants, fish processing plants, and Borealis breads.
RSU 10 School Nutrition Director Jeanne LaPointe said the workshop, through the Real Food Institute, showed them that there's food being processed in the State of Maine. There were workshops where the school nutrition folks did the hands-on prep of scratch food and there was skills training. They also prepared lunch while the directors were off in processing workshops, budget workshops, and to financially find the means to incorporate locally raised food into the school lunch menu.
LaPointe said those attending the workshops will provide additional training workshops for the rest of the staff of the RSU, to ease them about using a knife and prepping from stratch.
"We've evolved from a program of convenience food to a program of more scratch cooking, especially when they're utilizing local products that don't always come to you in a chopped and shredded form. We're doing a pot of chopping and prepping now, using food processors," she said.
"For example, we don't buy as much shredded chopped cabbage as we used to. We purchase a lot of whole, locally-grown cabbage. Advantages include cost and knowing where it's coming from," said LaPointe.
There was also a workshop on how to develop a root cellar technology.
"We have a small root cellar template that we're using at MVHS. We have a storage closet in the loading dock that we store apples, squash and some potatoes. And we keep it at a certain temperature. We're able to purchase 500 pounds of squash at a time from a local farmer. We purchased a load of potatoes from another local farmer. We're working on some things. It's just a matter of tying it all together once the growing season ends," said LaPointe.
The Real Food Institute hopes to act as a facilitator to bring the products to the larger markets. The facilitation wouldn't be limited to what's grown and/or produced on the land, but would include seafood, as well. The project they have funding for will process some local foods to see where the "pinch points" are, to see which farms would want to participate, and to see how a larger project might work.
The Institute, the pilot project and related activities have several components. Education is one of the main ingredients. Their Facebook page shows photos of a pork butchering workshop at Spears Farm in Nobleboro and a news story preview of the Medomak River Fest in Waldoboro, which was established to support the thriving shellfish industry there.
Additional photos appeared on their Facebook page following the "Back to Scratch" workshop.
The Institute's formation and its pooling together of many supporters is occurring during an unsteady economy with high unemployment, and also at a time when many people are questioning the sources of the food they eat each day.
LaPointe said she also tries things out at home, "Every day, every meal, we're eating something that was grown locally."
"You're making those relationships with farmers. You're supporting your local economy. Our next step is letting our students learn where their food is coming from, and increasing visibility of the farm to school connection," she said.
LaPointe noted, "At the MVMS alone, there are three farmers who make regularly deliveries. There are three apple growers, green growers and a squash grower. The Thurstons of Peru are going to be raising some spinach for the schools. One large part of their garden is going to be to sell to us, which is really exciting."
Recently, school nutrition workers participated in a two-day event in Waldoboro called "Back to Scratch." Those from this region participating included Ellen Kimball (Dirigo High), Gene Cloutier (Hartford-Sumner Elementary), Rossie Kyllonen (Buckfield Junior Senior High), RSU 10 School Nutrition Director Jeanne LaPointe, Joanne Crockett (Telstar Junior Senior High) and Cindy Bernard (Mountain Valley High School). (Photo courtesy of Jeanne LaPointe)