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N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute cooking up tasty recipes across the state

The following is a press release from North Carolina Public Schools

Regional K-12 Culinary Institute workshops being held across the state this summer are helping school nutrition managers learn new culinary skills and creative on-trend recipes to take back to their schools. The School Nutrition and District Operations Division of the Department of Public Instruction designed the institute to increase the availability of appealing, nutritious meals at school.

“Appealing meals that are filling and nutritious help students focus in the classroom,” said Lynn Harvey, director of DPI’s School Nutrition and District Operations Division. “The North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute provides school nutrition managers with tools and information they can take back and implement in their school nutrition programs to ensure students receive the meals they need to do well in the classroom.”

The N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute, developed by DPI’s School Nutrition and District Operations Division and nationally accomplished chef Cyndie Story’s K-12 Culinary Team, meets five core objectives:

  • Improve student health, well-being and academic success through nutritious, appealing meals at school;
  • Increase participation in high-quality and enticing school nutrition programs;
  • Expand capacity of school nutrition programs to purchase, prepare and serve fresh, locally grown produce;
  • Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grain-rich foods; and
  • Provide continuing education opportunities for school nutrition personnel.

Instructional segments cover topics such as knife skills, weighing and measuring accurately, preparing foods for just-in-time service, work simplification and scheduling, effective use of equipment, and quality food preparation and service for a variety of meats, grains, fruits, vegetables, and condiments.

Over 200 new recipes for school meals have been developed as part of the institute. The menus and recipes developed for the North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute feature:

  • Local N.C. agriculture products;
  • Recipes on trend with what students may see from food trucks, restaurants and media;
  • Favors to appeal to diverse ethnic and cultural tastes;
  • Scratch, convenience, and modified scratch products and techniques;
  • Instructions written for production amounts consistent with pack or pan sizes commonly available in school kitchens; and
  • Nutritional analysis files for easy import into software programs by local education agencies.

Participants in the North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute graduate as chef ambassadors and culinary specialists. These ambassadors are charged with teaching skills during the workshops to other school nutrition professionals at the local district or school level. Equipping school nutrition professionals with needed equipment, educational resources and skills can positively impact the preparation, service and consumption of school meals.

By the end of 2019 summer, 1,200 school nutrition professionals from across the state will have graduated as culinary specialists. The institute is funded in part by training grants DPI’s School Nutrition Services Section received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation.

Lisa Altman, school nutrition director for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, said that she has seen tremendous growth in the managers who attended the N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute.

“They are more confident with teaching others a variety of preparation and cooking techniques,” Altman said. “They are also excited about producing high quality and great looking menu items for our students. It has been a great way to offer continuing education to our school nutrition leaders.”

Karen Hetrick, school nutrition training manager for Rowan-Salisbury Schools and a graduate of the North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute, said that the program helped her improve her skills and learn new techniques.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the K-12 Culinary Institute,” Hetrick said. “It was nice to get a new perspective on what I love to do.”

Liz Cartano, school nutrition director for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said that the institute’s emphasis on sharing and engaging with participants has empowered all of her associates who have attended.

“I could go on for hours about how the institute has positively impacted our program,” Cartano said. “Our associates who graduated from the institute were so inspired when they came back to our schools that they worked with students and staff to create new recipes, conduct nutrition education and promote healthy choices. The institute is a way to start the process of empowering our associates to be the best that they can be.”

The workshops began in June and run through August. Local education agencies hosting the regional workshops this summer are: Alamance County Schools, Asheville City Schools, Craven County Schools, Harnett County Schools, Nash County Schools, New Hanover County Schools, Pasquotank County Schools, Rowan-Salisbury Schools, and Wilkes County Schools.

The NCDPI, School Nutrition Services Section is the State Agency (SA) administering the USDA School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Special Milk Program, After School Snack Program, Seamless Summer Option, and Summer Food Service Program in North Carolina. NCDPI, School Nutrition Services works with school food authorities, or local education agencies, to operate School Nutrition Programs across the state. USDA and NCDPI are equal opportunity providers and employers. Additional information regarding School Nutrition Programs in North Carolina can be found on the School Nutrition Services website.


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.