School meals in WA include cultural flavors

School recipes that reflect culturally relevant flavors from within the school community are welcoming to students in the cafeteria. When Highline Public Schools in Washington asked for student feedback about new lunch and breakfast menu ideas, requests included Hispanic food, vegetarian options, and Foods Native to WA, such as Salmon and berries.

Huckleberry Cornmeal Muffin

Highline was one of five districts in Washington state to receive the Team Nutrition Grants for School Meal Recipe Development from the USDA. One goal of the program is to standardize recipes featuring local agricultural products for use in schools, a great opportunity for the district to expand culturally relevant menus for with local produce.

“With the assistance of the grant from the USDA nutrition team, we were able to create five new recipes along with videos to show how these menu options feature Washington items including salmon, kale, berries and dairy products,” said Kristina Marsh, Assistant Director for Nutrition Services, Highline Public Schools.  

Chicken Pozole

One of the dishes now on the menu is pozole, a soup traditional to Mexico made in Highline with chicken and Washington-grown onions and cabbage. Toppings are part of the experience of enjoying pozole, students can customize to add flavors and textures to their soup.

Another new menu item is traditional to El Salvador and Honduras – Black Bean and Cheese Pupusa, made with a thick corn tortilla. The district uses local mozzarella cheese to incorporate farm-to-school ingredients into the dish. Nutrition department employees recently toured the farm to see firsthand the cows’ feeding and the process of turning their milk into the mozzarella made for the pupusa.

Black Bean and Cheese Pupusa

Before the new recipes could be put into rotation on the school menus they had to be approved by the majority of students.

The district hosts a Try It Tour that they hold on Washington Wednesdays. The students taste test recipes and place their empty cups under ‘like it’ or ‘not’ signs, according to Lisa Johnson Director, of Nutrition Services for Highline Public Schools.

Lummi Wild Salmon Tacos

Other recipes receiving overwhelming approval from the students were Lemony Kale Quinoa Soup featuring Washington-grown kale; Huckleberry Cornmeal Muffins made with wild huckleberries or locally grown blueberries, and Lummi wild salmon tacos made with Washington salmon. In an effort to inform parents of the new menu items, the district sent families a link to the videos and put them on Highline Public Schools website.

Lemony Kale Quinoa Soup

Highline Public Schools Nutrition Team says even with a drop in the district’s overall student population, the nutrition department is seeing a slight increase in meal participation.

The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will be gathering the recipes created by the Highline Public School nutrition department to be incorporated into Washington’s scratch-cooking recipe book. 

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