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Play Every Day Blog > Posts > Cooks at Alaska child care centers prepare healthy meals that kids will love


March 22
Cooks at Alaska child care centers prepare healthy meals that kids will love

19.03.14_HKC.jpgMARCH 22, 2019 — Over Spring Break, cooks at child care centers around Alaska came to Anchorage to sharpen their culinary and math skills with help from the Institute of Child Nutrition. They learned best practices and developed skills for providing nutritious meals for young children. 

The Institute trainers included a math teacher and a professional chef. They offered “Culinary Math” as a one-day training and “Healthy Cuisine for Kids” as a two-day training. Both provided classroom and hands-on experiences for learning culinary math, nutrition and healthful cooking methods.

The Institute is a federally-funded national center dedicated to research, education and training for child nutrition programs. Participants who took the training this spring used math and food preparation techniques to produce lots of healthy, tasty dishes designed to appeal to young children. Those dishes included “Tuscan Quinoa Salad,” “Porcupine Sliders,” and a class favorite: “Roasted Fish & Crispy Slaw Wraps.” Destiny Ritter, a food service specialist in Kodiak, learned to make a cheese sauce for “Chić Penne,” a healthier version of macaroni and cheese. 

“The trick is to let the sauce cool before adding the cheese, so it’s not grainy,” Ritter said. 

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) Child Nutrition Programs received a grant to offer the trainings to cooks who work with the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The CACFP provides healthy meals and snacks to children and adults receiving day care. It plays a vital role in improving the quality of day care and making healthy meals more affordable for low-income families.

“Child care center directors have been requesting cooks’ training to assist their staff in understanding and meeting the CACFP meal patterns,” said Ann-Marie Martin, Alaska CACFP program coordinator. “Sometimes cooks come to a center with very little culinary training, so this is an opportunity to gain skill development and resources to provide healthier options for the children in care. DEED is very excited to be able to fill this need by utilizing USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) grant funds.”

Math skills are helpful for adjusting recipes and following the CACFP meal patterns. Isaiah Conley, a cook with the Anchorage Boys & Girls Club, said he enjoyed the math sessions. 

“I learned how to break down recipes, like how many grains are in that snack so we’re following the CACFP rules,” Conley said.

This training helps cooks from early child care centers across Alaska come together in small groups and receive additional support from knowledgeable trainers. Sydney Hinkley, a cook with the Children’s Lunchbox in Anchorage, said the training helps her try new recipes, as well as learn from cooks at other child care centers. 

“It’s a chance to compare notes,” Hinkley said.

“Culinary Math” and “Healthy Cuisine for Kids” will be offered in Alaska six times in the next two years. The DEED grant provides funding to help cooks from 54 communities travel to Anchorage or Fairbanks to participate. For more information about the classes, contact Ann-Marie Martin at (907) 465-8771 or​.​

In the photograph above:  Brenda Marquez from Dutch Harbor and Mikal McGlashan from Sand Point prepare “Lentils of the Southwest.”