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Valley Falls High School students celebrate wins in Recipe Challenge

Valley Falls High School students celebrate wins in Recipe Challenge

When teacher Margo Ellerman first looked at the rules and guidelines for the KSDE Child Nutrition and Wellness Local Foods Recipe Challenge, she thought it would serve as a good final to test her students' capabilities and knowledge.

However, when all was said and done, the Valley Falls High School family and consumer science teacher said she and her students learned a lot more than just culinary skills.

"We were all pretty amazed," said Ellerman, who has taught at Valley Falls for 36 years. "It was hard, but projects like this can get students more involved."

The KSDE CNW Local Foods Recipe Challenge required teams of students, educators, school nutrition professionals and local farmers to develop recipes featuring Kansas-grown products.

Valley Falls' two teams won for Berry Delicious Applesauce and Kansas Granola recipes. The applesauce recipe includes a unique fruit – aronia berries, which are grown on land owned by Dan and Terri Sheeley about halfway between Effingham and Nortonville in Northeast Kansas. The Sheeleys and Ellerman are neighbors.

“Dan asked me if I wanted to come and pick some of the berries,” Ellerman said.

Before long, Ellerman’s students began accompanying her on the picking trips. This year, about 70 students from her classes joined her.

“I take a bus load,” she said. “It was a good project. They had a good time.”

The Sheeley family began growing aronia berries, also known as chokeberries, about 20 years ago, Dan Sheeley said. His son, Tyler, saw an article about aronia berries on the front page of the New York Times.

“The aronia berry was classified as the super fruit of the future,” Dan Sheeley recalled.

After some research, Tyler and his father decided to invest in some plants. They at one time had about nine and a half acres – or 11,000 aronia berry bushes – planted. While the bushes are hardy and fairly easy to grow, they haven’t been a profitable endeavor for the Sheeleys because it is hard to find facilities that will process them. However, Sheeley said, the journey has been an interesting one. He has cut back on the number of bushes he has but has retained enough that he hopes Ellerman and her students will be able to continue to pick berries in years to come.

“They have four times the antioxidants of blueberries,” Sheeley said about aronia berries. “They are very healthy for you.”

The CNW team organized the multi-year recipe challenge as part of a $289,000 Team Nutrition Training Grant.

Teams had to develop recipes that met all school nutrition guidelines, were easily scalable and tasted good to other students.

Each competing school received a $200 subgrant to purchase supplies and recipe ingredients.

Dozens of recipes were submitted to KSDE’s CNW team. Submitted recipes were evaluated by a panel of school food service directors and chefs based on student acceptability, feasibility of preparation and menu planning considerations.

Six recipes were deemed finalists. However, due to feasibility, only five were tested. Testing sites included Manhattan Catholic Schools and schools in Shawnee Mission, Hutchinson and Haven.

The winning recipes will be featured in the CNW Healthier Kansas Menus and the CNW Local Foods Culinary Training, a new training for Kansas Child Nutrition Programs on how to implement Kansas Farm to Plate and incorporate Kansas products into local menus.  

Winning recipes also will be included in the Institute of Child Nutrition Recipe Box database that will be accessible to child nutrition programs across the nation.  

Posted: Jan 18, 2024,
Comments: 0,
Tags: CNW

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