DCSD Food Services employees complete second year of culinary training
For the second year in a row, Food Services employees from the Darlington County School District (DCSD) completed an intensive food preparation and nutrition training course this summer.
Culinary Partners, a nonprofit that specializes in training school food service workers, led the way in the kitchen. Culinary Chef Instructor Tim Page, along with other trainers, joined Executive Director Eileen Staples at Hartsville Middle School for the weeklong course.
“We get the employees engaged. We realize that it is very important to have healthier kids,” Staples said. “We need to help kids learn that healthy foods can taste good. We want to use more spices, lower sodium and more whole grains to create healthier meals.”
The goal of the training is to help the food services employees prepare highly nutritious and tasty meals while following all federal and state guidelines.
Page, who has been teaching high school students in Spartanburg for 13 years, said he thoroughly enjoys the training and watching the employees improve.
“It’s a lot of fun. It gives them a nice energy bump heading into the school year,” Page said. “It’s also very important. You’re not going to have healthier children with wishful thinking. Engagement is important.”
The week not only included one-on-one instruction with culinary chefs, but also the employees also spend two days in the classroom. Clemson Extension led that portion of the training, focusing heavily on understanding nutrition, efficient operation of a cafeteria and marketing.
DCSD’s director of Food Services, Pamela Vaughan, said employees were so excited about the training last year, they were jumping at the opportunity.
“It is wonderful training,” Vaughan said. “They love it. We tried to get someone from every school like last year.”
Staples said the employees always enjoy the knife skills instruction, as well as learning about using herbs and spices.
“I wish we could do a whole week on just those,” she said.
One of most important pieces of the week for the Page is the growth he sees in the employees.
“It’s exciting. I enjoy seeing their confidence grow regarding how to prepare food properly and safely,” Page said. “Some of them go from nervous to confident. It’s important to see that change.”
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided funding for the training through a Team Nutrition Grant. The South Carolina Department of Education worked in conjunction with the USDA to distribute funding to Culinary Partners, according to Staples.
DCSD donated all food prepared during the week’s training to a local soup kitchen.