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Speed Scratch Cooking Saves Time and Money

posted on Wed, Feb 29 2012 12:24 pm by FARRISTOWN MIDDLE SCHOOL - BEREA, KENTUCKY

“There is a lot of interest in returning to scratch cooking instead of just heating frozen prepared foods. A variant is referred to as “speed scratch,” where some partially prepared ingredients are put together to produce the final product. The result is a fresher tasting product, often with less sodium than wholly processed entrees.”     –Kim Kengor, National School Nutrition Manager, Healthy Schools Program


When Robin Richardson came to Farristown Middle School after working in the restaurant industry, she had no intention of just reheating frozen foods. This new cafeteria manager was fortunate – she was handed a brand new school and full creative control over what she serves her 315 students every day. “We’re getting back to basics here,” Richardson explained. “We call it ‘speed scratch’ cooking- about 75 percent of our meals are made right here.”

When the new school opened in the fall the district had just joined the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program. Richardson was excited to hear about the collaboration between the Alliance and television personality and chef Rachael Ray to create healthy school lunch recipes that are available to schools enrolled in the Healthy Schools Program, and eager to try them out. “I like the Rachael Ray recipes because they use commodity products. It is real food that works for schools. We usually find recipes that we want to try and have to tweak things and substitute but she has a handle on what we need and that makes it really easy for us to use.

“The Orange Chicken is a big hit over here,” Richardson continued. “The kids also really liked the Mac and Trees with broccoli and Silly Chili. We’ve also made the Mexi Mac and Pineapple Slaw. We have been doing about one or two Rachael Ray recipes a week. Our kids really appreciate having homemade meals- they get excited about it and they trust us. We have about 85 to 90 percent lunch participation!

“This is definitely different from restaurant work but it is fun to work with the kids. I want to start a student food ambassador group to do taste tests and surveys - really find out what they want. I want them to help plan the menus.”