ARDMORE, OK -- Health experts in Carter County are taking steps to improve nutrition in school cafeterias and educate more than just the students along the way.
"We wanted the cafeteria staff to not feel like a 'lunch lady' but to feel like a partner in education," said the executive chef at Mercy Health in Ardmore, Charles Spencer.
He says it's time for a better nutritional outlook in carter county schools, and that will now be possible, thanks to a $700,000 grant, awarded by an anonymous local organization.
It'll start with food handling and nutrition training.
Spencer said, "There's definitely skills training that's needed in a lot of these cafeterias and that's the best way to do it, is to get in their kitchen and work on things that's specific to that cafeteria."
Spencer says they held an experimental two day boot camp style workshop with cafeteria workers last year, which was a big success.
They plan to do it again this year, along with other year-round initiatives and training included in a five year plan.
"We taught them about menu design, writing recipes, executing recipes. We even talked about naming your menu items to excite kids," said Spencer.
"It's not just what's on their plate. It's the whole experience, you know, all tied together that makes a big difference in just making it totally and completely kid friendly," said child nutrition director for Ardmore city schools, Jennifer roach.
She says the primary focus will be on elementary students, in order to start healthy habits early on.
Roach says, "It's going to give them more energy. It's going to help them in school just to help them concentrate more if they have something that's well-balanced and something that can keep them going all day long."
Spencer said, "I have no doubt in my mind it's going to be a huge success and probably going to be a model for other people in the state and hopefully even the country."