August 25, 2013

Chef's touch transforms school lunches in Maine

Pursuing healthful foods that kids will eat, local districts are taking the obesity battle to the next level.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

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Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro, a culinary school graduate and chef, has been hired by the Windham-Raymond school district. She says one of her goals will be to start cooking classes or an after-school cooking club for students.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

"It's little things that make a huge impact taste-wise," Cowens-Gasbarro said. "If you've had store chicken broth and you've had homemade chicken broth, it's like a world of difference in flavor and adds dimension to the food so you don't have to add that extra salt or anything else. It's using real whole foods, and that's something that I really stress in my own cooking and my nutritional consults -- the importance of whole, real foods and scratch cooking."

She's going to get student feedback on school menus so she can develop dishes that cater to their tastes but are also nutritious. And there may be some recipe contests, with the winners getting the chance to see their dish served to their friends in the cafeteria.

Cowens-Gasbarro said one of her goals will be to start cooking classes or an after-school cooking club for students "to really get their hands dirty." She noted that a lot of children are interested in cooking because of the cooking shows and celebrity chefs they see on television, but they don't really know their way around a kitchen. The decline of home economics classes and the lack of cooking by parents at home has left a huge knowledge gap.

"Getting kids in the kitchen, it's something that's kind of fallen through the cracks in this go out and make money, go, go, go, work, work, work atmosphere our society has right now," she said. "That isn't something that's stressed anymore, but yet it's so important because you can see that mentality has caused a decline in the nutritional quality of the food." 

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


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