Busy cooks make up to 400 meals per day
Think it's hard coming up with healthy, nutritious meals for your family every day? Think of the Herculean task faced by the folks at the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester, who provide up to 400 meals per day, for both the Head Start youngsters four...
Think it's hard coming up with healthy, nutritious meals for your family every day?
Think of the Herculean task faced by the folks at the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester, who provide up to 400 meals per day, for both the Head Start youngsters four days a week as well as members of the Boys and Girls Club.
Head Start children receive breakfast, lunch and a snack. Club kids receive dinner. "Our goal is to provide a nutritious meal as well as to educate them to make healthy food choices," said Ellen Hamernik, assistant director of the Boys and Girls Club.
All of this takes place at the newly renovated facility at 1026 E. Center St., called The Place, which is shared by both programs. The facility includes a fully equipped professional kitchen with a walk-in refrigerator and freezer, as well as a cafeteria.
According to Hamernik, from the time the facility opened, at the end of September, to the end of March, a total of 11,515 meals were served to the Club members, or between 1,300 and 1,800 meals a month — and it's somehow still spotless.
Prior to the opening, Steve Wolf, owner of Panera, provided box lunches.
Needless to say, planning and preparing are enormous undertakings, but Cole Welhaven, nutrition coordinator for Head Start, and Vicki Janning, chef and head cook, seem more than up to the task, along with their support staff.
For this kitchen, over 60 percent of its ingredients are sourced locally. Pam Benike, of Prairie Hollow Farm, is a big supplier, and what she doesn't have, she gets from other farmers, including whole cows, six so far.
"We really are committed to supporting our local growers," Welhaven said. "When we opened last September, the growing season was winding down, but now we are planning on taking advantage of all the crops coming in."
Meals are served throughout the day, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"We just get finished with one and clean up from that when we start another," Janning said with a laugh. Dinner for Club members is ready at 3:30 p.m. "Some have had lunch early and need to eat," Janning said.
The staff is especially proud that almost everything is made from scratch. A big favorite is chicken fingers, cut from breast meat, lightly seasoned and then baked.
"It took a while for us to figure out what these youngsters would eat, but we are on track now." Janning said.
Dislikes? Peas and beets. However, a surprise favorite is cauliflower with a light sauce.
The menu is on a 20-day rotation and always includes fruit, vegetable, a meat and milk. A sample dinner is spaghetti hot dish, apple slices, lettuce salad and milk. Pork is never served, nor is anything with peanuts.
While the focus is to provide children healthy, nutritious, meals, the kitchen is an important teaching facility as well. Welhaven works with Head Start parents, acquainting them with general nutrition information, tips on grocery shopping as well as other food concerns they might have.
An exciting development is that once a month Janning holds a healthy cooking class. Students have learned knife skills, vegetable identification and sauteing; they've made hummus and learned how to season with herbs.
They are also experimenting with chili recipes in preparation for the Chili Challenge, a fall fundraiser that supports the Boys and Girls Club.
"This becomes a teaching kitchen as well as a cook-and-serve kitchen," Janning said. "The goal is to give them life cooking skills, to educate them on where the food comes from and to appreciate it."