Plant Forward Menu Development with Rebecca Portman, MS

Hey everybody! Thanks for joining me for another episode of School Nutrition Dietitian. We all know the MyPlate guidelines state that fruits and vegetables should make up half of the plate. But how often do we really see our kids selecting fruits and vegetables in such a quantity that they are obviously the stars of the plate? If your districts anything like mine, not very often. So, because of this, people who are promoting health and working in school nutrition are always looking at different ways to introduce more and more fruits and vegetables to our kids in forms that they will find appealing. Today's guest is an excellent resource. Rebecca Portman is on the show today to speak with us about how her organization partners with school systems to introduce more plants to their children and to really make plants the focus of the menu.

 

[Theme music] School Nutrition Dietitian; here on a mission to show you fruits and vegetables can be super delicious. Eating healthy keeps you healthy on the inside, keep your stomach satisfied, and keep a clear mind. Now you're ready for your academics. Focused, time to handle business. Breakfast, you don't want to miss it. Help your body to replenish. Clean food, clear mind; that is the vision. Tune in to the School Nutrition Dietitian. [Fade]

 

Hi, Rebecca, thank you so much for coming on.

 

Hi, Dalia. Thanks for having me.

 

I really wanted to get a chance to hear from somebody who is an expert in plant-based diets, what some of the benefits might be and some of the considerations that people should have in mind in school nutrition because I don't know that all the country really knows where to start. I know in some states, they've already made big moves to make plants [the] main character on their plates, but in other states were struggling a little bit more, particularly in the south, I'm sure. So, first, let's start with how you ended up in the position you're in right now.

 

Sure. My name is Rebecca Portman. And our program is called Forward Food and it's under the umbrella of the Humane Society United States. But the program that I actually work with is called Forward Food. And I've been working with Forward Food for about three and a half years? I guess I'm going into my fourth year. The way that this really happened is that I was doing an internship with Dr. Michael Greger who is an MD, he's a public health specialist. And I started learning about- and this was about seven years ago, eight years ago, maybe it was an internship that I was doing just kind of on the side of my work. At the time, I was working for CASA which is Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children and I was very much interested in farm animal welfare and environmental issues and health and public health and all these different factors. And so I found this, this internship with Dr. Michael Greger where I was working on white papers, my background, I have a master's in experimental psychology. And so my background is really in conducting research. And he needed someone to conduct research and help him with what are called white papers, which are basically just factual papers, taking whatever facts there are and putting them down on paper, scientific facts and historical facts and such. And that's what I was doing to study industrialized farming systems in other countries, such as China and Brazil, and India and so forth. And I started learning more and more about factory farming, which I didn't know anything about. I didn't even know that it existed. Factory farming is just another name for what we now have, which is industrialized farming systems, which we've had since the industrialized revolution, with the demand for me, you know, and different types of animal products that we've seen occur since industrialized revolution. So, now we have had these large industrialized farming systems and I started learning about those, and that 99% of the meat, dairy and eggs that we consume come from those food systems. And that's really how this began, was me starting to learn about that and how it really intertwined. It's multifactorial, and it involves our health, the health of our planet, and of course, the way that the animals are treated and taken care of and what they're given and how they're produced and so forth in factory farms.

 

Okay, so you when you were working with CASA, were you mainly dealing with child wellness or child welfare and using your psychology background or what was your role like there?

 

I was a program supervisor. So, I trained the volunteers that served as advocates for children who had been removed from their homes because of neglect or abuse. And they were going through the system, the court system and under the care of social services, and they were a lot of an advocate to speak for them in court to advocate for them in court. And I was one of the people who trained the volunteers that did that. It was it was a very intensive volunteer program. And I was the- one of the program supervisors for that.

 

Ok, that's interesting.

 

Yeah. That was in Baltimore, Maryland. And then we moved to Atlanta, and that's when I started working with the Forward Food Program at the Humane Society United States. I'm from Georgia. I grew up in Savannah, and I've been in and out of Atlanta, so I'm back home.

 

Oh, that's funny. And I'm from Brunswick. I feel like no one ever knows where that is unless they're from like right beside it.

 

Haha, I'm definitely from- I'm definitely from right beside it. Yeah,

 

What made you pursue the internship with Dr. Greger? It kind of sounds like it was related? Did you have a special interest in expanding your public health knowledge or what made you interested in pursuing that?

 

Yeah, that's a good question. And I really did have lots of interests and back at that time, it was kind of hard to hone in on what my exact passion was because I was working with child welfare. But I was also interested in other animal welfare and on a global scale, not just the cats and dogs at the local shelter. I was more interested in primates, you know, gorillas and chimpanzees and monkeys. I was interested in marine life dolphins and whales and different cetaceans. So, I was really at that time exploring my passion for animal behavior and animal welfare and came upon this- I was really looking for something remote to do at the time. And that was the only remote position that I could find as a volunteer. And I said, okay, you know, I'm happy to learn about any other things going on with animals. And this happened before mammals and I knew nothing about I mean, I grew up eating fried chicken and cheeseburgers and, and so on, right and it was certainly wasn't part of my culture eating plant-based foods and, and learning about that, which is what I ended up learning about through the process as I was exploring the industrialized farming system and its effects on the environment and our health and our human health. And I just as I learned more, because once you start learning about one part of it, it just dovetails into the next part, you can't not learn about all the other factors involved because they are so intertwined. And once I started learning more, you know, you can't unlearn something, right? And I started becoming more and more interested in all the different aspects and trying to educate and do myself and do research on everything involved and really became more and more interested about really the health and the environmental components that I knew absolutely nothing about. I thought I was healthy. And I thought I was eating healthy at the time. And it just wasn't the- Learned maybe that just wasn't the case. So that's how-

 

Did you end up changing your diet as a result of your study there or your work there?

 

I did. I absolutely did. It was a gradual process for me and I started with moving away from animal-based products gradually and had really not eaten beef in a long time. I was mainly eating chicken and fish and a lot of dairy products. But then I started learning about what happens in chicken factory farms and I started learning about what happens on dairy farms. You know, the more and more I learned, the less I was able to consume those products. It's something that I was not able to unlearn or unsee. Most of us, you know, I was always mentioned in the beginning 99% of the animals that we eat come from factory farms and certainly the ones that I was eating were coming from factory farms. I didn't know about local farmers. I went to the grocery store and bought a pack of chicken. And I went to the grocery store and I bought, you know, a piece of salmon from the fish market and, you know, that type of thing. So, yes, as I learned more and more about the systems, I gradually changed my diet to a plant based diet, which I am now completely plant-based, and have been for about eight years.

 

Okay, wow, that is a big transition. So what is the Humane Society's mission and how does that differ from what the mission is for Forward Food?

 

So, Forward Food is a program of the Humane Society United States and it falls under the umbrella of the farm animal division. And Forward Food exists because we saw that there was an increased demand for animal products through the years causing so much stress, not only on the animals that are unfortunately caught up in those systems and their lives, but also the environmental part and what was happening to our land and our Earth, which also affects other species, whether it's bees and orangutans, or you know, lots of different things that are involved here because of the expanse of land use that's associated with factory farms. And we felt like we- and then, of course, the public health issue, which is part- also partly related. There's a lot of people, I think, don't even consider the human component of factory farms and how the humans are treated there. The injury, the lack of pay, it just, it's it goes on and on in terms of problems with, you know, social issues, and all these things that we felt like needed to be addressed and we felt like one of the ways that it could be addressed is to show people about all the other... to try to help maybe reduce that demand, if that makes sense. And we're certainly not out there saying go vegan, or it has to be black or white or all or nothing. What we are out there talking about is reduction. And so trying to give people the opportunity, what Forward Food does is try to give people the opportunity to learn about different plant-based foods and the benefits of those and reducing the reliance on animal based products and the consumption of animal based products while increasing the plant-based choices.

 

That makes a lot of sense. I mean, that's in alignment with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. There is emphasis on trying to increase your plant consumption because of all the health benefits. Can you expand on that a little bit? I know some people kind of have that all or nothing mentality because dieting is so common. People don't always understand that there's benefit in small changes, as well.

 

Absolutely, yeah. And I will actually give you a little bit of background of what we're doing in terms of talking about this, and how we're going about that within different systems around the country. And then it'll, it'll certainly make more sense. Our program is working with institutions, such as K through 12 schools and school districts, which is why I'm talking to you. And we also work with colleges and universities and hospitals and healthcare and we work with detention centers and the military and all the large institutions that serve many, many, many thousands and millions of meals a day and we offer different types of programs that give people hands on training. For instance, professional learning, where we go in and teach how to cook, and work with plant-based flavor profiles and ingredients, which it's often the first time or first exposure for many people and just kind of giving people that opportunity to explore with those and taste the food to see how easy they can be to make. And the other piece is that educational component where we talk about the health and the environmental benefits. And so that's how we're doing this in institutions. And when we talk about the health benefits, it really is about what the- like you just have were just mentioning the Dietetic Association has said that increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption and decreasing the meat and different animal-based product can have a significant impact on our health. You know, these lifestyle choices, these dietary choices can help reduce problems with chronic disease. And so we know that, you know, 90% of Americans eat less than one serving of fruit and vegetables a day, which is nothing, which is none. And we know that two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. And we know that our dietary choices are a component of that and our dietary choices can help prevent some of those diseases. And so, the way that they do that is that animal-based products are filled with saturated fat and cholesterol. Whereas plant based foods are cholesterol free, and very low in saturated fat depending on what food you eat. You know, if you have things that don't include oil, and things like that, then you're then you're probably getting any of those types of unhealthy fats, but that's how we're able to look at how these different types of foods affect our health on a long-term basis. We know that increase- decreasing animal based-foods and increasing plant-based foods in one's diet, it certainly helps prevent those types of chronic diseases. We know from the American Heart Association, they recommended that we decrease meat and increase fruits and vegetables to help decrease risk of stroke and heart disease. We know that the American Cancer Society that we know that the World Health Organization actually deemed processed meats as a type one carcinogen. So, all these different healthcare organizations and public health organizations, they've all come out in public and they have- they have actively said including the American Medical Association, they called on all of their physicians across the hospital- they call them all the hospital group to try to eliminate processed meat, reduce animal-based products and increase plant-based ones for their staff and their visitors and their patients. That's from the American Medical Association. So I, you know, all of these organizations are coming out in public to let us know about the health benefits

 

That really says a lot. So, there's definitely a push for an increase in fruit and vegetable intake and other plants. So, what do you think is the biggest obstacle for people? Why isn't this happening?

 

Well, if we're talking about school districts, that's one thing and then if we're talking about individual that's another. I'm happy to address those and whatever you would like for me to talk about.

 

Well, I guess the both are connected because we're always trying to please our customers. And of course, they're their own people, but they're also heavily influenced by friends and family. So, the surrounding culture also influences what they are asking for. So, one thing that I have noticed is depending on what language you use to talk about a vegetarian or vegan dish, that could determine whether or not the child would even want to try it. I think all the time, people get the veggie plate when they go eat typical Southern food, and they think nothing of it, fine. Maybe the broth is like chicken or beef broth, but even if it had been cooked in veggie broth, the person who's going to order that plate would want it anyway. But sometimes people are put off by the word, vegan. Sometimes it seems like people have an issue with health consciousness, it makes them feel like someone's trying to control them or cramp their style or something. I don't know. Some people seem to have an aversion to healthfulness. So, how do you address that one obstacle?

 

Yeah, well, we certainly don't use the v-word. And we, we really, when we do presentations at schools, and different institutions, we absolutely address what you're talking about, because part of the barrier is how you market it, and how you talk about it, exactly what you said, semantics are a big, big part of it. And what we know is successful through research and through the experience of other institutions that are having success. Is that the best way to get people interested in eating these foods is not to separate them or categorize them as something different, which is kind of what you're saying. Like, when someone goes out to a restaurant, they just order the vegetarian soup and they don't think anything about it.

We know through research that, for instance, on restaurant menus. If the restaurant separates our food and has a vegetarian category, versus just integrating the vegetarian options within all the others, there are fewer people who will order those vegetarian or vegan items. But if they mix them all together, they have a significant increase in purchases of the vegan and vegetarian options. And it is that mentality, it's this mental block, or this kind of stigma or, you know, that people associate with different types of foods, right? That they, especially for people that haven't had exposure to them or heard of them much. And so what we try to talk to people about is not making food for vegetarians and vegans. That's not what it's about. It's just about making good food.

 

And making it look good and taste good and everybody wants to eat it. You're not trying to cater to a specific cohort of people. And you don't market it that way. Right? Because then it's ostracize, it's left- It's like, you know, out in the corner and people, then you're only going to have this minority of people who will go eat that food. That's not certainly what we're about in, in school food. We want to, you know, we want-

 

That's a really good point. Yeah, I hadn't thought about, I didn't realize that data was out there. Like, I knew that some people would be put off by being identified, but at the same time, I wanted things to be easily identifiable for the kids who have those types of dietary restrictions, whether they're religious or otherwise. So, have you noticed- I don't know if this is clearly explained in the research, like if there's just a small v and a circle, but it's mixed in with everything else does that seem to change anything? Or it's completely separating it that's the issue?

 

It's completely separating it. And so, what people do is exactly like you said, they'll put a little small v or a little leaf, or something that identifies it, you know, just up in the corner. The vegans and vegetarians know to look for that. And they're going to be in conversation with the institution, anyway.

 

That's true.

 

That's what they do. They seek out conversation about that. But your lay public, your average, you know, Joe and Moe, who are going to the dining hall or cafeteria and they're just going to grab a plate to eat, they're just going to grab whatever you know is at the beginning of the line that looks great. And if it tastes good, they're going to tell their friends it tastes good. And their friends are going to go choose it. And so our work focuses on... we have two dietitians and several chefs on staff and our work focuses on developing for K through 12, for instance, recipes that are flavorful because really, if you just label something with what it is, and talk about the flavor, and don't use any descriptive that says health or vegetarian or anything like that, you just say, oh, this is a this is a garbanzo slider, garbanzo bean slider or this is grandma's homemade chili, okay, and you've got beans instead of beef in there. No one's going to say where's the beef, they're just going to eat grandma homemade chili. And so if you just call it what it is, and then have descriptions about the flavor and ingredients, that's what sells.

That's what sells and then, you know, and so what we're doing is developing different flavor- flavorful recipes, that has often been tested and approved by kids at different institutions and schools. We develop these databases of recipes that we share with institutions like K through 12 schools. They all are standardized with nutritional components to meet the USDA criteria. And our dietitians do that. So, one of our dietitians that developed the recipes, was the dietitian for the Sarasota school district for 10 years. And that's what she did, partly. And now she works with us full time. She's the director of our of our division- of our food nutrition division, our Forward Food program. So, she helps develop all of those- Yeah, so she helps develop all those recipes that are geared towards K-12. And then of course, the ones that are geared towards college university are different because they don't have to meet the USC- USDA criteria. But we work with the schools and school districts, when we're doing a training, for instance, and we pick out recipes that are ingredients maybe that they're already working with, so that we can start trying to maybe integrate one or two recipes onto the menu that are, you know, favorite- kind of tried and true favorites and familiar favorites. So, for instance, we do like a sloppy joe, and it uses lentils, okay? And instead of beef... the kids eat it up. And you don't say, oh, this is a vegetarian Sloppy Joe, you just, you're having sloppy joes for lunch today.

They don't know the difference, because of the way that we cook it. And the barbecue sauce and they're just eating Sloppy Joe, you know, it's just it's like that. That's what we're doing. Or for instance a fiesta rice and bean bowl and instead of putting beef in there, we put beans and a lot of the kids I've learned like pinto beans. So, we'll- you can use pinto, you can use black beans. You can mix the two and then when you're serving it, you just say, "Oh, you like tacos? Tastes like tacos," and then the kids are like, great. Give me a whole plateful and they love it. And it does taste like taco, it's that taco sauce and- or taco seasoning and salsa. And, you know, it's really like a taco. So, it says those are the types of recipes. Sorry, go ahead-

 

Those are the types that you've been putting out there. What parts of the country have you guys been testing in? So, I figured you have representatives for different regions of the US? Have you been testing all over the country, or what does the database contain recipes from just one area?

 

We've been doing- we do this all over the country. We're actually international now. So, we're in China and Brazil and Germany and Canada. Really, we're kind of all over the place now, Spain, I think that we've gone into, but on a national level, I cover the southeast region. So I'm in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Kansas, kind of all over this area. And then we have, like you said, different people, different regional people in the different parts of the country. And certainly different foods are popular in different regions. So, for instance, in Georgia, I, we've done these trainings at probably eight different schools and school districts, or maybe between Georgia and South Carolina. We've worked with City Schools of Decatur and Atlanta public schools and Cobb County School District and Burke, city schools in Bremen and Carrollton. And we've kind of been all over the place. And we've done taste tests. So, I've done a bunch of taste tests at Atlanta public schools and the kids love our chick pea salad and our fiesta rice and beans. Yeah, so you know, it really just, it does kind of depend on where you are but for the most part, it's really, I think it comes down to the fact that more and more kids all over the place all over the country are the generations that are up and coming. The younger kids, and certainly the college kids, they're eating more of these types of foods that we're talking about; chickpeas, you know, that's what hummus is. They're eating hummus. They're eating burrito. They're eating bean burrito. They're eating things that I certainly didn't eat growing up as a kid. When I was just eating fried chicken and cheeseburgers. I didn't even eat beans.

 

Right

 

You know, but my child- my 12 year old eats beans several times a week. I mean, it's just, you know, and she's not vegan. She's vegetarian. But yeah, these kids are- they get kale chips or different types of things like that in schools now and I was at, I was at the wellness committee meeting for Fayette County Schools. I work with them, as well. And they were saying that they do kale chips and the kids love them.

 

I'm just wondering how they keep those crispy.

 

Oh, I don't know. We'll have to ask... Wilder; she's the food service director.

I know- I guess something people seem to be concerned about is cost. And I know I grew up eating a lot of beans. But that's because my mom's not really from the States. At school, we were mostly just eating pi- might have eaten pizza every day, for 12 years. I really can't remember anything else. I am wondering, what have you found when it comes to incorporating more plant-based dishes into the diet? What does that tend to do to the bottom line in a school system?

In the bottom line in the school system is that it can reduce costs and so the cost savings- and I should have mentioned that. When we go into schools and talk about health in the in the environmental components, we also talk about cost savings. So, we know that you know we've compared things like our fiesta rice and black bean bowl, you know instead of beef and it saves about $1, six per four ounces, and you know different things like that, what we know is that beans and legumes and whole grains and seeds and nuts and fruits and vegetables, all those different things are less costly than beef and pork and chicken and fish and sometimes dairy. We know that those things are less expensive. They just are. They are in the grocery store if you go compare costs, and they're available, you know, as with as commodity, I mean beans, you can get big, you know, heaping cans and they have a longer shelf life. And of course, you know, I'd be remiss to not mention that beans are such a healthy and you know, meat alternate. They're so filled with fiber, which is what I'm sure you know, one of the things that Americans are missing most out of their diet.

 

Yeah, absolutely.

 

And so when we switch, right, so when we switch to these plant based foods, we're getting so much more of the healthy proteins and calcium and iron, but also the fiber that we just don't get with all the animal-based products. But anyway, so those, those types of foods are just, as a matter of fact, less costly. I was talking to someone the other day who said, oh, well, they were talking about this as an individual, "Oh, I can't afford to eat this way." I think what people, I think what people what confuses people, is when you start talking about plant based, they all just kind of automatically think organic. But that's a whole separate issue. That's a whole separate issue. Organic produce is more expensive, or it can be more expensive. But when we're talking about ordering plant based foods from your, whoever you get your food from, whether it's US foods or Cisco or, you know, whether it's your soap opera uses Aramark, or you know, whatever that may be, plant-based foods are less expensive,

 

Right. I find that a lot of people keep assuming, when you use the v-word, they think meat substitutes that can be higher. But when you plant-based, and everybody knows, like rice and beans is what you used to eat when money was tight, even though rice and beans can be totally delicious. It's not the rice exactly what you see. But I think the problem is them thinking about those highly processed faux-meats, which are totally not necessary to do-

 

Right. Absolutely not. And most of our recipes don't have those things. Most people- those are expensive. And most places cannot afford- Most now, okay, let me just talk about K-12 right now since that's the institution, you know, that's the kind of the area where you are because obviously different places can afford this and but K-12 typically can't afford those types of products. Now tofu is another story. Tofu is inexpensive and readily available. And to different you know, just school districts now. Another one that's becoming available that I just read today, that is go- is approved now by I guess USDA and they're going to start talking about how to source it is tempeh.

 

I saw that webinar and my internet went out- I swear it hasn't gone out at work forever, but it went out before it was over but I really wondered how hard of a sell the tempeh would be. I feel like most people are familiar with tofu but not tempeh. Can you define what tempeh is and what it tastes like, in your opinion?

 

Yeah, I mean tempeh is like a is pressed soy, basically, but it's and I'm trying to remember, because I am not as up on tempeh either, because we haven't been working with that. So you know, it's a it is a, it's like tofu, it's a soy based product. It's, it's, it's fermented, it's cooked soy beans, basically, you know, and then you form it into this dense cake. A lot of the versions of campaign contain beans and grains. There are some soy-free versions. And I just read this today about tempeh becoming, you know, acceptable or approved. And I don't even know what type it's going to be. I have to- I have to learn more about that. I actually send an email to our dietitian, I said, "Oh, my gosh, this is so exciting." And she was going to email me later to tell me more about what's involved. And then I can talk more about that. But you know, no one knew about tofu before.

I mean, when I started this role three and a half years ago. I didn't even talk about tofu then because that even then even just three and a half years ago, schools, I don't even know if it was approved back then. And people were weirded out by it and now school districts are using it. They're using it.

 

Do you find people are afraid of the soy? Or what was the reluctance? Just that being an unfamiliar food or thinking how am I going to get all this water out of it so I could get some flavor into it. What was the resistance?

 

I think it was the unfamiliarity for the most part. You know, I think that people were unfamiliar with it. They didn't know how to use it. They thought it tasted yucky. They had to that's another part of our training. So, we don't have a lot of recipes with tofu but we do have some, you know, the most of our recipes are with beans and legumes and grain you know, whole grains and, and, and vegetables and things like that. But again, we do have some recipe to a token now that a lot of school districts across the country are using it. And what we teach people in the training is that you have to think of it like an ingredient. And so it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. It's like a piece of chicken. You don't just slap a piece of chicken on the grill and call it a day. You season it, right? Or you marinate it. Same thing with tofu, you marinate it or you season it, you can cook it, you know, five different- six different ways. And so it takes on whatever flavor you're using to flavor it or spice it or and however you cook it. So, we you know, it's a it's been a learning process for people.

 

I haven't done tofu, sold to be prepared and large commercial amounts. Does it come in much larger packaging? Like, you might get meat product or would you be opening lots of small containers and how do you press the tofu in a school service setting or is that even necessary before you marinate it?

 

Those are great questions. I think that the and I don't actually have the answers to that, because I think it depends on who the school uses for purchasing and whether they're self-op or not. I don't know what the different companies do like Aramark and Sodexo. Which I think service most of the schools here if they're not self-op, for instance, in Georgia, I don't know what product it is that they sell because I'm not I'm not really on that end of it. But it's a great question and I and I, that I'm that I'm now interested in finding out you know, for when someone asks me. You're the first person that asked me that, and I'm glad that you did because now I really will go find out in what in what kind of packaging I imagine they're, they're large packages. Not I can imagine that they sell you know-

 

I hope so!

 

Individual. Yeah. And I might already be pressed. They might already be pressed. I don't know. So, I'm gonna, that's a great question. But I do know schools are using it and but yeah, I'm not sure how they're actually, what it looks like when they purchase it, so I won't settle from it. Oh, no, I will let you know.

 

Thank you. Well, where do we Yeah, and these recipes online? Or how do we connect or set up an appointment to see how our local representative can work with our district?

 

I'm so glad that you asked all of our resources because we're nonprofit are completely free of charge. So, all the trainings that we do for professional learning days or different presentations and all the workshops that we do, we do a lot for dietitians for the diabetic groups around the country. Everything that we do is of no charge to the institution except for whatever food that we're making that day that the staff can eat. And that usually doesn't run more than about $125. And of course, they get their, you know, professional learning credits for the day and on the person in this area that would coordinate that with you and everybody can go on to our website which is forwardfood.org/foodservice and you can scroll down the page to where it says recipes. And there are hundreds of recipes on that page there. They're just free to use for whoever wants to pull them up and start cooking. You know, you can use them at your school or at home. They're all scaled to different sizes for cooking. This summer, you know, I think we have them in serving sizes of 12, 15, 100. We and we scale them- we scale them based on the training and how many people are going to be there and that type of thing, you know, and that gauges how much food we actually made at the different may get the different trainings but yeah, we have the institution, the school or the district go in and choose whatever recipes they'd like to focus on for the day and we- then they just make sure that we have all the ingredients we need and we take care of the rest. We come in and do everything with the staff. It's a lot of fun-

 

It's really nice that the contributions are already there. That's really helpful to know how much me alternate and how much of your whole grain you have in the dish. That's really helpful.

 

Absolutely, yeah. Everything is delineated in terms of nutritional content. And yeah, the components, everything, so that it's all laid out for everybody. We really have done mostly in-service days when they like to bring all the managers or all the staff together for a large training, and that's what we've done. We've done one where we done one school or we've done a whole district, it's a fun day. It's engaging and honestly, it is a great way for people to just explore this concept and expand their repertoire a little bit. Again, we it's not about the school going vegan, it's not about individual. It's about- It's just about learning the benefits of decreasing our intake of animal-based products while increasing our fruits and vegetables, which everybody knows is a healthier way to be. And so, we just tried to give people the opportunity to learn about fun ways to do that, and tasty ways to do that, where the kids will want to eat it, because that's what it's about is serving kids-

 

That's excellent.

 

So that they have to want to eat it.

 

Exactly. And that's what we always need help with; trying to get the kids to eat their fruits and vegetables, trying to get them not to always opt for the fruit, include the fruits and vegetables and other dishes, incorporate it so that it just happens naturally. Because we don't get any pushback when the kids eat vegetables in a soup. Nobody says anything about it. But you put those same vegetables on the line and you isolate them and the same kid who ate that soup yesterday says, "Oh, I don't like that. And I don't like that," even though you know they ate it yesterday. So, it's a good idea to incorporate the vegetables into the center of the plate dish. So yeah, I'm excited about the idea of finding new ways to make that appealing to our customers.

 

Absolutely. That's exactly what we do is just make it the entree and make it the center of the plate and just make it look good and taste good.

 

Thank you so much. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

 

I really appreciate talking with you. And I can't wait to listen to more of your podcast. Is this something that's just starting?

 

This is just started I am. I have kicked the idea around for a long time. But you know, usually you get on in your own way when you start thinking about how things aren't going to be perfect and I'm fairly new to school nutrition. So, even when I've thought about pursuing something very public like blogging or podcasting before and areas that I have a lot of experience in, I still doubted myself and I'm like, "Am I ready? Are people going to pick me apart, am I going to make mistakes?" Well, of course, you're going to make mistakes. Like, if you're not making mistakes, you're probably not doing anything. I think I've just finally got to the point where I'm prepared to put myself out there and just, you know, deal with the stuff that comes with trying to do something creative whenever you're making something. But I know that there are not enough easy to consume resources available for people who are new to school nutrition, because when I first came in, I had to sit down and like just sit and read codes of federal regulations and so much reading. You have all this work accumulating, I really needed different formats available, like more video, more audio, because you really have to study almost like you're taking a class when you first start working and the learning never ends. So, I do think there's a need for more easily consumable content related to the job because the information is always changing, even like the tempeh. I love that it was a webinar and it was so random that my internet went out right when the webinars started, but I'm sure it was interesting. I'll have to listen to the replay. But I just think we need more things like that, where you can listen to it while you continue to fiddle with, who knows what you have on your desk that day, like you literally never know what you'll be doing.

 

Yeah, that's fantastic. Well, congratulations.

 

Thank you so much for your support.

 

Yeah, well, and I you know, anytime that you want to talk more about what we're doing, then I'm happy to jump on a call with you. So, thank you very much for having me.

 

If you have been listening to the show for a while, you probably already know that I feel all foods fit, all foods can find a place in a healthy diet. So, whenever I have a guest on who has resources to share that maybe leans more in favor of one eating style or another, it isn't that I'm endorsing that eating style. I just want to present whatever resources are available to school nutrition and keep in mind how diverse the eating styles are among our students. And in this particular case, the health benefits of a plant forward menu are undeniable but that isn't to say that there isn't room for animal-based products, as well. I am very interested in working more with Forward Food with presentation and marketing of plant forward menu items. Another one of the reasons that I like the idea of offering whole food, plant-based items on our menu is that you can engineer these menu items to be allergy-friendly. And then, these menu items can serve multiple purposes for different parts of your student body. So, like Rebecca explained, you may not want to segregate these items on the menu, because that does not help from a marketing perspective. But you do want to identify your vegetarian items, and your allergy-friendly items. So, that can be done discreetly. And people who fall into those categories, of course, will be looking for those identifiers. And most likely you're working directly with those students or the parents of those students to make sure they have menu options available every day, anyway. So, as usual, if you didn't get a chance to take notes during the- I am trying something a little different this week, I've created a worksheet rather than a summary sheet, where you can review the main ideas from the episode but also do a little bit of brainstorming about how you would maybe like to use the information you reviewed today on your own. So, if you would like access to that all you have to do is visit the website that's schoolnutritiondietitian.com/podcasts and there you can join the mailing list and I will get that right to you. If you are already on the mailing list, don't worry. That will be in your inbox soon. I'm experimenting with the email frequency so it would be great to have feedback to know whether you prefer weekly contact, bi-weekly or monthly. You can shoot me your opinions on the contact form or you can just email directly dalia@schoolnutritiondietitian.com or, of course, you can contact me on Facebook or Instagram. All right you guys, thank you for tuning in. I'll see you next week.

 

[Theme music] School Nutrition Dietitian; here on a mission to show you fruits and vegetables can be super delicious. Eating healthy keeps you healthy on the inside, keep your stomach satisfied, and keep a clear mind. Now you're ready for your academics. Focused, time to handle business. Breakfast, you don't want to miss it. Help your body to replenish. Clean food, clear mind; that is the vision. Tune in to the School Nutrition Dietitian. [Fade]