Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Mar 24, 2010 06:25 PM

Most schools have commercial grade kitchens. What would YOU do, or suggest, toward a solution to lunch programs/ obesity / food stamp hunger, using the school kitchen as an evening training ground?

Our neighborhood schools have some amazing kitchen facilities, that are totally underutilized, often reduced to reheating commissary meals shipped from a central kitchen. Lots of our kids eat both breakfast and lunch at school on a subsidized basis.

But yet within each school neighborhood, there are families feeding a supper of hot dogs/mac cheese etc, or going hungry until the kids repeat the cycle at school.

Let's imagine that the schools opened at night, where parents were able to attend, at which meetings a solid approach to cooking very basic but nutritious meals could be taught. This is the core of this post.

The first thing that comes to my mind is a night of simply showing how to cook dried beans, rice, and cabbage dishes. branching soon to other non-processed foods, There are cheap ways to eat.

What would you want your neighborhood school to do, or better yet underpinned by what would you offer to contribute to the process?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. do most schools have amazing kitchen facilities? As I understand it, most (new) schools only have equipment to heat food up. In the city of new york, a school cafeteria cannot receive raw chicken breast--it has to come precooked, as most food does, either from a distributor or commissary. I know this is just a dream, but why dream? Start a cooking club, and use your own kitchen, a church kitchen, or even the firehouse! (now THERE's a kitchen)

    3 Replies
    1. re: fayehess

      I'd certainly think that NYC schools would snugly fit in the central commissary distribution mode. And good plug for your website. The question again: solutions, and contributions? You're question "Why dream"... well...

      1. re: FoodFuser

        But, FF, DO schools have real, even if not amazing, kitchens anymore? If they do, would their insurance allow it to be used by non-licensed people? What about the state sanitary police?!? I'm sure there's a real name for them but they DO exist. Just a little foundation please.

      2. re: fayehess

        Some NYC schools do have a "cooking kitchen." The school my mom works in does.

      3. I think that is a fantastic idea! However, I'm with the 2 previous posters in that schools don't have kitchens anymore ... and there would be major legal issues in doing such a thing.

        However, many churches do have adequate kitchens to hold a function like that.

        I feel like I have a skewed perspective on the whole thing though because I live in a community that is a destination for homeless people. There are people who travel across the country to be homeless in this city. At the same time our farmer's market is one of the most expensive I've ever seen or heard of and the city offers classes on how to cook on a small budget - but you have to pay $15/person and it the food it shows you is closer to the hot-dog-mac than to anything you'd consider healthful!

        Anyway, I'm constantly amazed that people lack VERY BASIC kitchen skills. As a matter of fact, the woman teaching one section of the above mentioned class tried to use a paring knife to peel a bulb of garlic instead of giving it a little bash and picking up the skin. She did the same thing with an onion instead of simply cutting it in 1/2 and peeling off the outer skin. I have a friend who couldn't even cook oats - she relied on the small packets of microwave oatmeal because she had no idea how to make oats! What I'm saying is, it would be a fabulous idea to round up a group of knowledgeable volunteers to teach basic cooking skills to people. One very important thing to remember in that sort of practice would be that not everyone gets to go home and rock a $30 santoku so it would be important to show how to get results from that steak knife that gets used for everything but steak or the ancient aluminum pot you picked up for $2 at Salvation Army. It's frustrating for people to assume that kitchens are just magically equipped instead of dealing with what's available to a more average person.

        I'm actually fairly inspired by this post and am now formulating some ideas to teach a free basic cooking skills class!

        8 Replies
        1. re: erisgrrrl

          The homeless travel across country to live in the streets of your city.
          The farmers' markets in your city are the most expensive in the country.
          The city sponsors - and charges for - cooking junk food classes for the homeless.
          But the cooking instructors themselves don't know basic techniques.
          Your city lacks the usually common thrift stores and WalMarts/Targets for cheap, good knives.

          Oh, c'mon. Give us a clue! Where are you? Chicago? I want to visit.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I'll boost your post ,Sam, even though you've moved on to a higher plane. My town _is_(I know you loved this form of punctuation) a homeless destination: Our community offers incredible services to everyone who asks, therefore, they come. Various groups offer classes on how to cook well and cheaply. No one comes -- they prefer to eat at McDonalds. We have a serious problem here, and the homeless don't seem interested in being a part of healthy solutions. Our farmers markets accept food stamps, but none of the vendors I know have ever been approached.

                And, sadly, I have to add that all school cafeterias in our distrcit have had their functional kitchens removed. Now, they can only reheat.

                1. re: pikawicca

                  I may be missing something, but isn't there not a lot of point in teaching someone who's homeless to cook? I encountered a homeless person just the other day who had raw meat and no way to cook it. You might be able to build a (probably illegal) fire, but by definition you don't have a stove/oven/cooktop/hot plate to call your own ... many food bank clients, though, do.

                  1. re: foiegras

                    I'm wondering the same thing. Homeless people also have issues with food storage, so it may be more economical to buy something premade than to go out and buy ingredients to make the same thing. If you have to buy 6 servings, but have no way of refrigerating or preserving the extra servings, where's the savings?

                    1. re: foiegras

                      Social services in my town do a great job of moving homeless persons off the street and into subsidized housing. For the small number of chronically homeless, there are several "soup kitchens" where they can eat. The food served at these is actually quite good.

              2. It's a great idea. It's happening at my the high school in my inner-city neighbourhood. Most of these innovative things seem to need a champion - usually just one person with the passion to get it done....otherwise it just ends up quagmired in a committee.

                1. More funding.

                  Money makes the world go.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    That was my thought exactly. I just read an article about this issue, and the nutritionist at the school stated that, after labor, they had but a dollar per child. I'm surprised the lunches aren't worse, if that's the case.

                  2. What leads you to believe that folks would be responsive to your idea? I have a feeling most folks are quite satisfied with their meal choices. Not a good thing, but realistic.
                    Not exactly what you are proposing, but here is the cooking program in the public schools where I grew up.