Archive | September, 2012

Get Inspired by Cafeteria Man

26 Sep

No doubt, many of us will remember the lunches of our school years.  Soy “hockey puck” burgers and gummy pizzas spring to mind for me.  I certainly would have appreciated fresh, whole peaches greeting me the first day of school.  Replacing the syrup-drenched canned peaches was just one of the changes Chef Tony Geraci’s, food service director for Baltimore schools systems, implemented as he reformed the school menu.  Chef Ceraci’s reform efforts are the topic of Cafeteria Man, an award-winning documentary by Richard Chisolm. Over the two years that the film covered, Chef Geraci implemented a 33-acre teaching garden, Meatless Mondays, nutrition education programs and pushed for a central kitchen to provide fresh, local foods to 83,000 students within the city’s school system.

It is an inspiring story full of energy and Chef Geraci is the necessary force to drive change but what comes through in the film is the involvement of the community. It took a team effort to reach these ambitious goals!  The spotlight is definitely on the kids, including the small group who walked into a School Board meeting and fed the members one of their lunches.  They appear to be the initial catalyst for change.  Their input shapes the menu and their voices are heard as far as Washington D.C as the dynamic director pushes for the resources he needs to get rid of the mystery meat!

School lunch reform is a hot topic so the screening would not be complete without a panel discussion with a few local movers and shakers of the school lunch scene.  Brandi Cartwright (Raintree Learning Community), Jill Duncan (Bon Appetit at Washington University) and Robert Rusan (Maplewood Richmond Heights School District) spent a few minutes talking about their efforts to make local, sustainable, healthy foods available.

Slow Food Saint Louis holds screenings once a month at Schlafly Bottleworks for a suggested donation of $5. The next film in the Slow Food Film series is WASTE LAND, an awarding winning film by Lucy Walker. Though it isn’t a foodie film, turning trash into art is an idea with which sustainable-minded folks can get on board.  For more details, visit the Slow Food St. Louis website.

Jessica Moeller-Gaa is a DPD student in the Nutrition & Dietetics program. She prefers food on her plate but in films is OK too.


Farm to Table for Kids

18 Sep

This summer I tried to stay busy while simultaneously relaxing after my ambitious summer class schedule last year. I thought that I would just be volunteering with a dietitian a couple days a week while I scoured the web for food service job opportunities.

I applied to many and got no responses, until one day I check my email and saw an email from Marjorie Sawicki, a professor in the Nutrition Department and Public Health. She was looking for a student to work for her program, Farm to Table for kids, that teaches sustainability and cooking with local produce to kids ages 5-13 at the Belleville Old Town Market, a farmer’s market. The program receives a Federal Grant to purchase materials for the class.

After the kids cook with produce purchased at the market, they sample it and then pass out samples to the farmers and other vendors at the market and build a relationship with the farmers. They get to see the face that grows their food and personally thank them for caring about their food and bringing it into town for people to buy.

It is an experience that I will cherish and it developed me as a future dietitian. It also opened my eyes to other opportunities in community nutrition. I could have easily missed the chance to participate in this if i didn’t open that email.

So, what should you do with your summers?

  • Work in food service hospital tray lines or other settings.  Apply early on and do not wait like I did because when I knew it was time to get some food service experience, I did not get any interviews. So, open those doors before you need them.
  • Search for food service or nutrition education volunteer opportunities. Some good resources to find these opportunities are other students, teachers, the Department’s SLU Global page, or are all good places to start.
  • Contact local dietitians, shadow them and take on whatever tasks they are willing to give you.
  • Write it ALL down! Keep a running list of activities in which you participate.  Include the frequency and tasks that you did while there.

Ashley Downs is a senior in the undergraduate program of Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University and the SLUDA President.