For some, the words “school lunch” conjure up memories of freezer burned chicken fingers with a side of greasy fries, chocolate milk cartons, and little snack cakes. Or in my case, 12 years of trusty peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. However, the next generation may look back a decade from now and remember school lunches a little differently thanks to the work of innovative chefs and food service managers like Tenille Folk in Aspen, Colorado.
In Tenille Folk’s kitchen, the ingredients are real, fresh, and local (seasonal harvest permitting). Everything is made from scratch from the Herb Roasted Chicken with Roasted Potatoes, to the ‘hand rolled’ meatballs for Spaghetti Day, down to the ketchup. Tenille says, “Pizza day is also a hit with our 3 day pizza dough that we make in house with a pizza sauce that includes roasted zucchini, yellow squash, fresh basil, and tomatoes”. To minimize food waste, kitchen scraps are turned into soil for the school garden with the aid of a composter; though from the sound of the delicious menu items, I can’t imagine there is much to throw in there at the end of lunchtime. While she has a handle on the situation, she always encourages helping hands in the kitchen. Students are invited to get in on the cooking as a way to integrate food education into the curriculum.
The meals from her kitchen not only sound pleasing to the taste buds, but are also packed full of vitamins and nutrients, garnering the approval and students and parents throughout Aspen. As part of a strategy she calls “stealth health”, she has perfected the art of sneaking vegetables into the most unlikely of places and keeping students coming back day after day. I dare say with chefs like Tenille at the helm, we may be on the verge of a school lunch revolution! So be on the lookout for nutritious and delicious foods coming to a cafeteria near you!
To read more about Tenille, check out this ZGreen News Article highlighting her work in Aspen elementary and middle schools.
Alyssa is an intern at Food Day and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. working towards an M.A. in Global Environmental Politics.