Children love to eat all kinds of foods regardless of the smell, color, or texture.
Said no parent. Ever. Well, maybe a few.
For this reason, parents with children who attend Murray Elementary School (MES) will be thrilled to learn about a new pilot program aimed at expanding children’s palates. The Georgia Department of Education’s (GaDOE) Nutrition Team selected MES, along with eight other K-12 schools across Georgia, to participate in an initiative to enhance the school’s culinary program.
As part of the program, Chef Michael DuBose, a culinary specialist with the GaDOE, visited MES Oct. 24-25 to observe cafeteria operations and provide recommendations to the cafeteria staff.
“We meet with the directors and get more in-depth knowledge of what it is they're looking for … where is the help that they could use,” said DuBose. “As a culinary specialist, I’m here to observe cafeteria operations and provide culinary tips, emphasizing the importance of culinary skills, presentation, placement of items, flavor, use of local fruits and vegetables, and service flow,” he added.
DuBose also emphasized the visit is not part of any inspection or audit, but more about building a culinary mindset among cafeteria teams. “This year we're really focusing on building a culinary culture within school nutrition,” said DuBose.
Frances Smith, who has nearly three decades experience working in food service, manages the school meals program for each of Fort Stewart’s three elementary schools. Smith submitted the nomination to participate in the pilot program.
“I'm always searching for programs to enhance things that we do in our cafeteria,” said Smith. “I'm hoping the different ideas brought to our program will increase participation in the school meals program.”
For MES School Principal Jared Collins, the culinary pilot program is an exciting opportunity to strengthen another area related to student achievement, recognizing that a cafeteria team dedicated to evolving their approach to meal preparation is imperative to student success.
“School meals are critical to students’ well-being and readiness to learn … children who have access to healthy meals are more likely to have the energy and focus they need to succeed in the classroom,” said Collins. “Other benefits include increased short-term memory, better classroom behavior, and improved attendance,” he added.
DuBose also briefly toured cafeteria facilities at Fort Stewart’s two other Department of Defense schools, Kessler Elementary and Diamond Elementary on Oct. 26.
“The reason I got into school nutrition is to help kids, and as a Navy veteran, it means so much to me to be able to support all of these military-connected students,” said DuBose. “The Georgia school nutrition division is committed to excellent service in these core areas: Quality meals, Student & Community Engagement, and Professional Development.”
DuBose will follow up with Smith and her team in the spring of 2024 after they’ve had a few months to make changes and evaluate impacts on the school meals program.
“Mr. DuBose has a wealth of information, and I’m grateful for his expertise and advice as to how we can improve the school meals program here at Fort Stewart,” said Smith.