Career Tech Culinary Students

Elissa Penczar teaches Catering and Culinary Management at the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center operated by Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. She says tying her program to the expanded farm to school efforts made possible by 10 Cents a Meal* is a big win for her students who come from all of the high schools in Muskegon County.

Muskegon Students Make Cookies

“I’ve been using the farm to school framework as a big umbrella to meet my educational objectives,” she said, “such as nutrition or knife skills, scaling up recipes to serve thousands of people, marketing, and management.”

Three times a year, the students hear from Whitehall District Schools and Montague Area Public Schools Food Service Director Dan Gorman which of three Michigan products he wants them to develop recipes for and, ultimately, create 7,000 samples or more for students to taste. They use the Cultivate Michigan marketing materials that have been designed as part of the Michigan Farm to Institution Network to promote them to students.

“10 Cents a Meal is making farming and eating a priority. Being exposed at a younger age to fruits and vegetables through growing, taste testing, having it on their school menus – that improves what they choose and it carries through their whole life. It would be a shame if 10 Cents is discontinued. There is still work to be done, and there is such positive momentum.” —Deb Warren, Muskegon County Farm to School

“They are loving the notion that they are developing recipes for other kids to eat in K-12 schools,” Penczar said. “ It gives them a really great leadership opportunity to really feel that they are connected and that it matters.”

Career Tech Center kids an Pumpkins

They are also learning by teaching other students from other area schools how to prepare and share samples. And they are getting much needed repetitive practice in knife skills by dicing 150 pounds of potatoes from Michigan farmers that Gorman buys each week from Cherry Capital Foods. Gorman roasts them for student lunches.

“It is a lot healthier than tater tots or French fries.” —Dan Gorman, Whitehall District Schools and Montague Area Public Schools

Penczar, meanwhile, is working to get as much industry credentialing as she can for her students as a result of this experience, so they are better set for jobs. And students feel valued. At a recent meeting, adults sought their input.


*Michigan’s 10 Cents A Meal for School Kids & Farms is a successful state pilot that provides schools with up to 10 cents a meal in match funding to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Originally a $250,000 state pilot in prosperity regions 2 and 4, lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder expanded 10 Cents A Meal for the 2017-2018 school year to also include prosperity region 9 with an increased budget of $375,000.  The is one in a series of stories documenting 10 Cents A Meal for School Kids & Farms.

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