Shifting a menu toward scratch-made

Published by the Food Service Director

Spokane Public Schools in Spokane, Wash., received a grant to help begin its scratch-made menu.  Three and half years ago, Empire Health Foundation, a regional charitable foundation, awarded the district $1 million to fund its efforts, which included training for all nutrition staff and implementation of a menu that included scratch-made options.  

The district decided to split the training into waves and take things step by step, says Garrett Berdan, menu supervisor. 

“We had managers go through in phases. We had a first wave of kitchens who wanted to be the pioneers into the program and so they were the first kitchens that went to scratch, and then we had training for the remainder of the kitchens,” he says. “Everyone by now has been training through the program, and so we’re continuing to plug along.”

The district’s latest push toward scratch-made is a new cafeteria at one of its elementary schools dedicated to producing meals in-house. When choosing what would be included in the new back of house, Berdan says that the team made sure to purchase equipment that would serve them well into the future. 

“We found a lot of use in combi ovens, so we made sure to have a double combi oven in this kitchen,” he says. “We also have a double convection oven, and then we have a steam jacketed kettle for soups and sauces.” 

Popular scratch-made items include pasta dishes and a creamy Thai chicken over rice. 

“We use a sunflower seed butter as kind of part of the sauce and [that dish] comes together really nicely,” Berdan says. “It has great flavor.”

Approximately a quarter of the district’s menu is scratch-made. Berdan currently has a whiteboard full of ideas for potential additions to next school year’s menu. 

“I’m thinking of … making hummus in-house and doing a sort of a hummus and pita or hummus and chips grab-and-go lunch item,” he says. “I’m also considering doing a housemade granola for our menu, which would be a great feature at all levels.”

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