During the interactive professional development training at Salem High School, Salem Superintendent Dr. Stephen Zrike welcomed the staff and thanked them for their hard work and impact on student’s wellbeing. Participants then broke into 5 teams to create delicious new recipes in just 60 minutes cooked on sheet pans using all ingredients provided in a mystery box, including a lean protein and a variety of green and starchy vegetables, with access to a full pantry of spices, vinegars, cooking oils, dairy and bread products.
The 5 custom dishes included a Fiesta Chicken with a delicata squash and brussels sprout medley; a Hawaiian Delight with mashed yams, broccoli, pineapple and marinated chicken; a Summer Tower of ground turkey, zucchini, summer squash and red potatos stuffed in a green pepper with a side kale salad; a Mezza plate with turkey meatballs, and a brussel sprout and calabaza squash medley; and a Warrior’s Tofu Salad served with two sauce variations and a zucchini, summer and calabaza squash medley.
Following the showdown, Project Bread Chef Educators Sam Icklan and Sherry Hughes worked with staff to present their dishes and will be exploring options to add some of the day’s recipes to the regular school menu and introduced to Salem District’s student population. It was the first time the event was run at the school, in part to train staff on creative approaches to meal prep during professional development time.
“This is the kind of day that energizes us,” shares Sam Icklan, Director of Community Nutrition Services at Project Bread. “We’re able to work with the talented Salem nutrition staff, encouraging them to bring their creativity and their heritage into each dish. The staff work hard each day to feed hundreds of children, and with free school meals, they can focus on just that, providing nourishing and delicious meals for all kids in the Salem district.”
Salem school nutrition staff members, led by Irvelt Perrin, Director of Food and Nutrition Services, and Assistant Director Michaela Short at Salem Public Schools, joined Project Bread’s inaugural School Food Fellowship Program in October 2021. School Food Fellows participate in monthly professional development training and onsite meetings with Project Bread’s Chef Educators, including the development of new recipes that cater to supply chain limitations and meet USDA nutrition standards. This is just one key example of how Project Bread is working to ensure nutritious, delicious school meals are available at no cost and free of stigma for every student in the state.
This academic year, Massachusetts is 1 of 5 states continuing to provide free school meals to all students, after the expiration of federal waivers in June. Through the FY23 state budget, $110 million has been allocated to keep children fed during the school day. These meals have proven a vital resource to the 1 in 5 Massachusetts households with children struggling with enough to eat statewide, disproportionately impacting Black and Latino families. This is why Project Bread, alongside bill sponsors Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Andy Vargas, has refiled legislation this January to make free school meals for all students permanent.