The Maine Department of Education (DOE) Child Nutrition team provided a virtual tour and presentation of its Culinary Classroom recently in an effort to showcase to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) how the classroom has benefited Maine schools since its initial launch in September of 2019.
USDA helped fund the project as a way to improve Maine DOE’s capacity to provide Maine schools with additional skills and training with preparation and cooking as part of the national school meal programs administered through Maine DOE.
The call featured Maine DOE Chef Michele Bisbee and Maine DOE Director of Child Nutrition Walter Beesley who provided national representatives with a virtual tour of the culinary classroom including a look around the kitchen, a demonstration of how the equipment is used, and the various angles the state-of-the-art cameras can provide. The kitchen and its ability to present virtually and record provides multiple options for in-person, virtual, and online learning opportunities for school nutrition staff statewide.
Participants from the USDA included Administrator Pam Miller along with Kurt Messner, Regional Administrator from Northeast Regional Office; Christine Ruggieri, Deputy Regional Administrator; Cheryl Fogerty, Special Nutrition Division Director; Martine Cherry, Schools Branch Chief; and Jan Kallio, Community Nutrition Branch Chief. SNP Program Specialists, Deborah Roach, Susan Gentile, Pam Griffin, and Greg Piotrowicz along with Cynthia Tackett, Public Affairs Director and Heriberto Ortega were also in attendance virtually.
During the presentation, Beesley made a point to mention the many considerations are taken into account for trainings, for example providing different options for prepping and cooking with appliances that local school units would have handy, and not just using commercial grade appliances that may not be available in all school kitchens. “It is important to make our trainings relevant to school staff no matter what they have in their kitchen,” said Beesley during the presentation.
Another important aspect of the presentation was the many partnerships the Child Nutrition Team has been able to obtain and grow through its expansion of the culinary classroom. In addition to partnering with schools to provide trainings, they have also grown their partnerships with higher education institutes in Maine, and other industry professionals who use the kitchen as well.
The presentation was well received by our national school lunch partners, and garnered continued support for the kitchen and Maine DOE’s ongoing projects to support Maine Schools.
For more information about the Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition team and its programs visit their website. To see recordings of their trainings, visit the their YouTube Playlist or training website. For more information about the Culinary Classroom, contact Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team.