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12 creative ways for K-12 school food crews to use commodities during coronavirus feeding programs

At Waconia (Minn.) Public School District, the team is ‘pulling all sorts of tricks out of our hats’ to make the most of commodities on hand, pantry items and awesome kid-friendly new recipes to help save the budget during a time when schools are going broke.

 During times of crisis, Americans historically have proven successful at “making do” with what’s on hand. Victory gardens, baking bread at home, fixing stuff rather than buying new…that type of self-reliance has been quietly making a comeback as everyday conveniences we took for granted have disappeared in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

This scenario is happening at Waconia (Minn.) Public School District, where Barb Schank, director of the nutritional services department, is drawing on her pioneering Midwestern roots to look at what’s on hand in the school kitchen and then not just “making do,” but making it awesome for the hundreds of meals they’re serving each day since schools have been closed.

“We have less students eating, so we’re trying to save our money,” Schank says of the effect school closures have had on the budget. “We’re trying to not furlough people and keep staff on board [with a rotating schedule] and being paid with health benefits, so we have to get creative.”

While some districts are working with their distributors for more pre-packaged items, Waconia is going the opposite direction, making more menu items from scratch, and using up those commodities at the same time with cool ideas like square pancakes, bean salads, parfaits, hummus, corn salsa, omelets, casseroles and more.

“Some people can say, ‘What’s in your fridge? What’s in your pantry?’ and put together something great,” Schank says, adding that many of her team members are in that category. “It starts with a little bit of creativity, and we try it and get success and that builds momentum.”

Check out some of the cool ideas for commodities in action at Waconia.

Contact Tara at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter @Tara_Fitzie

TAGS: Coronavirus
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