So… we are finally cookin’ in Dover! The piece below is written by Ashley Blake, UNH Nutritional Sciences grad and fellow volunteer with our Dover school food project.
UNH Nutritional Sciences Field Experience students prepared quesadillas for Woodman Park Elementary School students in Dover on Thursday, March 12. The group of interns, supervised by UNH lecturer and Dover parent, Amy Winans, made the whole wheat tortilla quesadillas with black beans, broccoli (sneaky!), garlic and white cheddar cheese in an effort to revamp the menu and make strides towards healthier eating.
In a yearlong effort to change school meals and vending items in the Dover schools, the three UNH Field Experience students, Dana Poist, Kimberly Povec, and Ashli Franck planned the quesadilla taste testing, which was served with locally made salsa, donated by Blue Mermaid restaurant in Portsmouth.
“This first taste testing session has given us a lot of hope and I think it is feasible to start getting more nutrient dense foods into the schools,” reflected Dana. “It is difficult to find fresh local produce during the winter months in New England, due to the harsh winters. We hope that for the tastings this spring, farmers will be able to donate some fresh spring vegetables,” stated Ashli after her efforts to incorporate local foods in the tasting.
The Field Experience students have not only tried to allow healthier choices in Dover schools, but have also tried to embrace the concept of sustainability. “The ladies that were working with us could not have been nicer and were more than willing to help us in anyway,” commented Dana.
Lynne Chavez, Woodman Park Elementary Kitchen Manager, and her staff Jean Rae Richard and Christine Marston, were excited to have the UNH group in the kitchen and found the project motivating. Lynne plans to find ways to cook more food from scratch. She hopes to purchase some ingredients at the Dover Farmer’s Market during the spring and fall seasons.
Student social interaction is encouraged during the short lunch period and large round tables facilitate student chit chat. Eyeing the room, it took one brave student to take the first bite and claim the quesadilla’s tastiness in order for others to go for it.
“It was fun to be able to expose the kids to food they might not have tried before and give them something nutritious that still tasted good,” said Kimberly. The near 300 Dover elementary students, although apprehensive at first, tried the quesadillas and the positive feedback from students proved the event a success!
The elementary school taste-testings will determine if quesadillas will be served at all grade levels and incorporated into district menus. The Field Experience students will host two more taste-tastings on May 12 at Horne Street Elementary School and May 13 at Garrison Elementary.