Maine DOE Launches Culinary Classroom to Support School Meal Programs; EUT to Share Office Space

Joanne Allen, Director of Maine DOE Office of School Finance and Operations stands with and Walter Beesely, Director of Child Nutrition at Maine DOE in the new Culinary Classroom.

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) recently held an open house to showcase a new culinary classroom based in its Augusta offices. Located just across the river from the Capitol complex, the new space also houses offices for the Child Nutrition Team and the Education in Unorganized Territories (EUT) team as well.

The new kitchen is supplied with industrial stoves, appliances, sinks, counter space, ventilation, and tools that will allow the child nutrition team to host professional learning opportunities for school nutrition staff that are working in schools throughout the state. Pending the final touches on some cameras and tv monitors, the DOE will be planning some upcoming webinars, with tips and information about how to utilize and cook with USDA approved foods in school kitchens, including cooking from scratch, with vegan options, and keeping up with trends in the food service industry, among other topics.

Just down the hall from the kitchen there is ample office space for the staff who work on the Child Nutrition teams including two chefs and several other nutrition specialists. Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition team is a federally funded function of the Department that works to support federal programs that help fight hunger and obesity, by reimbursing organizations such as schools, child care centers, and after-school programs for providing healthy meals to children. They also help run the Summer Food Service Program and oversee several United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services programs and initiatives that provide healthy food to children.

Child Nutrition Chefs, April Taylor and Michele Bisbee.
Child Nutrition Chefs, April Taylor and Michele Bisbee.

While the Child Nutrition Team is working hard to ensure Maine kids have healthy meals, their neighbors, the EUT team, are next door providing State-run administrative services for Maine schools that enroll students from unorganized territories throughout the State, ensuring students who do not have a school near their home have access to elementary and secondary education. The EUT places and supports 900 students from unorganized territories all over the state with tuition, special education services, transportation, and advocacy. They also help run EUT schools, Connor Consolidated School in Connor Township; Edmunds Consolidated School in Edmunds Township; and Kingman Elementary School in Kingman. Maine has 421 (and growing) unorganized territories with students from north to south, inland and islands, mountain areas in the west, and farms areas in the northeast.

In addition to the day-to-day flow of files that pass through the EUT offices during regular business, they also house some unique historical documents with a rich history dating back before the 1920s. Some of which are now on display for visitors to see in their new space, including black and white pictures, hand-drawn floor plans from old school houses, and even some old tuition bills.

The open house drew colleagues and news stations alike and ended with an announcement that the new kitchen space will be dedicated to Child Nutrition Director Walter Beesley who was instrumental in launching the culinary classroom in hopes of providing more hands-on, advanced support to Maine school kitchen staff.

For more information about Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team, please visit their website or contact their offices, and for more information about Education in Unorganized Territories, please visit this webpage for contact information.