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By Claud Mann

2013 marked the completion of The Orfalea Foundation’s five-year cycle of Culinary Boot Camps designed to improve food service workers’ ability to integrate healthful, cooked-from-scratch meals into Santa Barbara County schools. The week-long trainings gave attendees an opportunity to work alongside professional chefs with the goal of acquiring the techniques and production methods necessary to make the transition to working with fresh, unprocessed ingredients.

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Scratch cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients.

This past June, the foundation’s first professional development training picked up where boot camp left off. Each one-day, eight-hour session focused on specific topics and/or skill sets, including scratch baking, equipment familiarity, knife skills, kitchen math, and techniques for safely handling potentially hazardous foods. As requested, refresher lessons from Boot Camp were also incorporated into each day’s curriculum.

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Recipe conversion and kitchen math in action.

On the final day, Orfalea chef-instructors facilitated round table discussions where participants shared innovative practices, explored methods of integrating local wellness policies into school food service operations, and school food itself into the greater educational experience.

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Orfalea equipment grants are just the first step. Gaining familiarity with equipment makes fresh salad bars a reality in a majority of schools in the county.

Participants were nominated by Food Service Directors from Santa Barbara County school districts with the understanding that each would be given an opportunity to share what he or she learned with co-workers as part of each district’s future professional development.

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The future of school food lies in the sharing of innovative practices, peer support and a commitment to continuing professional development.

As the School Food Initiative transitions from providing professional development to a more supporting role, we expect that Santa Barbara County school districts will continue training, supporting and empowering one another like this in the future.

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