Students in Modesto City Schools (MCS) in California started classes last week, but school nutrition professionals had been preparing for the new school year all summer long. Something exciting was in store, helping to improve the more than 24,000 meals made daily – new equipment for their specialized bakery. Think about 24,000 meals in terms of a restaurant – what kind of facility is needed to produce that many meals every day?
Modesto has an expansive 35,000 square-foot central kitchen that also houses its very own bakery – all on school premises. The district’s Nutrition Services Department has hired two culinary trained professionals and a registered dietitian to develop recipes that are both delicious for students and USDA compliant for school meals.
In response to the whole grain requirements for school meals, MCS is creating an impressive and creative array of whole grain breads, muffins, cinnamon rolls and smart snack compliant cookies – all made from scratch!
According to MCS Nutrition Services Assistant Director Christina Wudijono, the district sought out specialty machinery this past year due to the popularity of their muffins. At the International Baker’s show, the district purchased a Unifiller muffin depositor, used in retail bakeries throughout the world, to keep up with the growing student demand for fresh-baked muffins.
With this equipment, school menus this year will include some delicious new items, including whole grain harvest pumpkin squares, expected to be popular with students. In addition to their whole grain breads and cinnamon rolls, Modesto will feature whole grain wild blueberry squares, whole grain chocolate muffins and whole grain oatmeal chocolate chip muffins.
“Students were not receptive at first when we transitioned from white dinner rolls to whole grain dinner rolls,” said MCS Nutrition Services Assistant Director Christina Wudijono. “The most difficult transition has been pasta noodles and tortillas. However, with the help of industry partners, we have improved many of our recipes in recent years. Our culinary professionals have also played a large role in the development of these products. White wheat flour has allowed us to serve a light colored product that is 50 percent whole grain.”
Students have been more accepting, the introduction of whole grain breading for foods like chicken nuggets and patties has helped. The Modesto City Schools Nutrition Services team said they will continue to experiment and push students’ taste buds, helping them try and accept new healthy options.