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West Elk USD 282 students, faculty members partner with local farmer; win KSDE recipe challenge

West Elk USD 282 students, faculty members partner with local farmer; win KSDE recipe challenge

A recipe challenge hosted by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) Child Nutrition and Wellness team afforded students from West Elk Unified School District 282 the chance to learn about school nutrition guidelines and how tasty items made with sorghum truly can be.

The fact that two teams from West Elk High School won is just icing on the cake – or rather, Poppa Chocky Muffins and Pumpkin Bars.

“I really enjoyed the fact that students got to learn about the requirements in the cafeteria,” said Kandace Metcalf, the family and consumer science teacher at West Elk USD 282. “I liked that aspect of the competition. It was also good for my students to learn how to cook with sorghum. I feel like students learn so much from contests, and this makes them step outside their comfort zones and to strive to put their best foot forward.”

Two of Metcalf’s teams were winners in the challenge for a Poppa Chocky Muffin recipe and a Pumpkin Bar recipe.

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. 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 team 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 Child Nutrition and Wellness team is excited to have this opportunity to highlight and share tasty recipes developed by Kansas students that feature Kansas-grown ingredients,” said Kelly Chanay, director of KSDE’s CNW team. “Developing a recipe that meets student acceptability standards and is scalable for school use is no small task, and the efforts of the West Elk teams led to two outstanding recipes that really shine. We are looking forward to seeing how these recipes come to life in the menus of districts throughout Kansas and the rest of the nation.”

Metcalf had students participate in an earlier challenge and thought it was beneficial for students, she said. So, when the 2021 challenge was issued, she was excited to have some of her students participate again.

Metcalf and some of her students are gluten-free, so Metcalf decided to feature sorghum as a replacement for wheat products.

“Sorghum cooks up better than other products,” she said.

After students tried gluten-free items made with sorghum, they agreed.

“I had used gluten-free flours in the past, but it was interesting to see how sorghum flour compared to other varieties of flour,” Metcalf said. “Many students and staff members who tasted our recipes didn’t know that they were gluten-free.”

The two winning teams were Patriot Dominators and Patriot Protectors.

The Patriot Dominators included Courtney Hare and Mackinzie Sheel, both now seniors at West Elk High School.

The Patriot Protectors included Jadynn Gooch and Emma Nault, both now seniors at the high school, as well as Rebekah Browne, who graduated in 2022, and Coral Mueller, who graduated in 2021.

Hare, Sheel, Gooch and Nault said one of the biggest challenges for them was trying to make their food items tasty. The recipe competition also was eye-opening and a learning opportunity for the teens. Nault and Sheel work at a local restaurant and said they learned even more about the importance of portion sizes and following guidelines.

Each team worked on their recipes for about three months and prepared their food items once per week until they were satisfied with their taste, texture, etc. Karla Julian, food services manager for West Elk USD 282, and Chris Kelly, from Kelly Family Farms, served as advisers to the teams.

“I thought it was challenging to get the students to see the importance of gluten-free products in the school,” Metcalf said. “All schools are required to serve students foods they can eat. Having something they can serve to both students with gluten allergies and other students is an advantage to cafeterias.”

Two teams from Valley Falls USD 338 also were winners of the Local Foods Recipe Challenge. Watch for an upcoming story featuring Valley Falls USD 338 students, staff members and their winning recipes.

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.  

The Poppa Chocky Muffin recipe was recently featured by the Sorghum Checkoff in its Sorghum Farm-to-School Toolkit: School Foodservice Guide.

“I feel very honored and proud of my students,” Metcalf said. “I am excited for schools to get to try the recipes my students have developed. I am excited for sorghum to find a place in school and a place on our plates.”

Posted: Nov 9, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush
Tags: CNW

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