Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nutritious Food Powers Learning

Cargill Visit Menus Quality Farming, Food, and People to Celebrate National School Lunch Week

It has long been known that students need quality food to fuel their education.

Equating the need to safeguard the health of the nation's children to a matter of national security, Congress established the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in 1946 to promote the consumption of free or low-cost, nutritious foods in schools.

In recent years, standards-based educational reform has improved the quality of education students are receiving in the classroom; now standards-based nutritional reform is improving the quality of food students are eating in the cafeteria.

According to the USDA, the passage of the Healthy Hungry-Free Kids Act in 2010 led to the eventual raising of nutritional standards for all items sold in school cafeterias. "We want the food they get at school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables," said First Lady Michelle Obama, who championed the bill. Added Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: "Improving the quality of school meals is a critical step in building a healthy future for our kids."

Understanding healthy cafeteria food supports student success in the classroom, Mrs. Jennie Cheesman is leading the charge to meet and exceed USDA nutritional requirements for about 1,500 students in grades 7-12 at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School.

In celebration of National School Lunch Week, Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School Cafeteria Manager, Jennie Cheesman (bottom left), and her entire crew of cafeteria workers dressed up as farmers to honor the work they do to produce quality foods to help feed students healthy meals.  

It was more than a fervor for food and cooking that led Mrs. Cheesman to become the Cafeteria Manager more than a decade ago. It was serving up a better life for others. "Before this, I was a Community Living Coordinator for physically and emotionally handicapped adults. They were all trying to live independently, and I helped them eat healthy by doing group home menus and grocery shopping."

What is the primary focus in managing the cafeteria? "I want to continue to improve participation both at breakfast and lunch. I especially want to see more students enjoying breakfast. It is scientifically proven to be the most important meal of the day, and breakfast is free for all students."

Offering more menu choices is one strategy Mrs. Cheesman uses to attract more students that benefit from a nutritious meal. "I'm thrilled to be able to offer so many menu choices. At breakfast, we have a minimum of 23 choices. At lunch, there are 30 entrees. We also have 4 a la carte lines that have between 8 and 10 choices which are different in each of line."

About her crew of 17 cafeteria workers, Mrs. Cheeseman said, "Everybody is creative. Everybody has ideas. We brainstorm on ways to get more students into the cafeteria to get what their bodies need to help them succeed academically."

While food is the most vital facet of cafeteria operations, special attention is also paid to building relationships with students. "Our favorite part of the job is serving and interacting with students. We keep up with the kids, their activities, their triumphs, their disappointments. We let them know we care about them and are here to support them."

The Florida School Nutrition Association (FSNA) selected Mrs. Cheesman to represent the state of Florida at the House of Delegates for the School Nutrition Association's annual conference in Utah. At this event, Mrs. Cheeseman won a drawing. The grand prize? An educational school visit from Cargill, a global food and agriculture company that also offers financial and industrial products and services around the world.

For Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School students and staff, the visit from Cargill-owned Shady Brook Farms was the highlight of National School Lunch Week (NSLW), a program launched by JFK in 1962 to garner more attention for the nutritional benefits provided by the NSLP through annual week-long celebrations of healthy foods offered by school cafeterias. The theme of this year's NSLW is 'School Lunch Snapshot,' the concept being capturing real images of today's school lunch experience for students.

Shady Brook Farms presented 'The Art of Turkey' educational program to students in Mrs. Michell's cooking classes. The program focused on educating students through engaging, personal interactions with Cargill Chef Faith Ford and Shady Brook Farms turkey farmer, Mrs. Nancy Miller, to share the importance of choosing good foods as part of daily meals.

Chef Faith's enthusiasm for her work glowed like a halo around her chef attire: coat, hat, and smile. She has worked for Cargill for 15 years. "It's a great company. They take good care of us."

Her role has been to help develop and test new products that provide tasty, healthy meals. "I'm a product development chef, a research chef, a kitchen manager, you name it," said Chef Faith.

To kickoff the school visit, Shady Brook Farms served up a meal Mrs. Michell's students will never forget. The nutritional food included low-fat turkey drumettes, fat-free fruit salad, and low-sugar juices. There was no mistaking how much the students enjoyed the meal.

"The turkey was delicious," said Nick Evtuch, a senior. "My favorite thing was the buffalo turkey drumette. It was huge and it tasted amazing."

"The turkey drumettes are fully cooked with a light seasoning," said Mrs. Suzanne McCarty, a Business Development Manager for Cargill. "They have a lot of versatility with the flavors such as BBQ, ranch, and teriyaki. We try to give schools opportunities to menu products like the turkey drumettes in different ways. We try to make it easier for the directors to plan menus that kids love."

Before presenting an informative lesson on nutrition and engaging students in educational cooking demonstrations, 'The Art of Turkey' by Shady Brook Farms offered students a highly nutritious meal that exceeded all USDA nutritional requirements. Students could not wait to dive into the food, and many of them enthusiastically asked, "Can we please get seconds?!"

College and career readiness is a critical focus at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School, and Chef Faith contributed ideas and encouragement as she talked to students about how her own career developed over the years.

"I liked listening about how she got to where she is today," said Brooke Foxworth, a senior. "She started out as an assistant and did a lot of cooking for the company. Then Cargill paid for her culinary schooling to help her become a chef, which is really cool."

With the goal of teaching students more about the importance of choosing nutritious food and educating them about where food comes from, Chef Faith presented a comprehensive lesson on good nutrition, great cooking, and healthy eating. Throughout the lesson, she emphasized the importance of students making healthier food choices. "You only have one body. If that goes south, then you're in trouble."

Juan Restrepo, a senior, is a defensive tackle on the Viper's varsity football team. "It was good learning about nutrition," he said. "I know eating healthy is important. If I don't eat healthy, I'm not going to perform well on the field."

Cargill Chef Faith Ford presents a lesson on how sugar, sodium, and fat content are influencing the menu choices schools are making to uphold the latest USDA nutritional requirements. "Nutritious food is what keeps these students going throughout their busy days," said Chef Faith.

After providing students an overview of some of the focal points of the USDA's requirements, basic nutritional requirements and comparing and contrasting the nutritional values of a variety of food and drinks, she led a cooking demonstration in which students collaborated in small groups with the task of turning creative recipes into healthy meals.

During the cooking demonstration, Cargill Chef Faith Ford walked from group to group and provided students with guidance, support, and tips as they learned how to prepare healthy turkey-based meals at home.

"The cooking demo showcased one of the thick-sliced turkey breasts," said Chef Faith. "Each of the five groups had a different recipe that showed how they can use a safe, healthy, tasty product in simple ways to prepare meals at home. The turkey-based recipes included sandwiches, wraps, and salads."

"I liked trying the different recipes," said Brooke. "The Turkey Focaccia Sandwich was my favorite."

"The Turkey-Boursin Wrap was really good," said Juan. "I took the recipe flyer and plan on making it at home."

Students in Mrs. Michell's cooking classes agreed that cooking lessons from Cargill Chef Faith Ford (far right) generated a healthy supply of smiles along with plates full of nutritional meals.

"Visiting the school is amazing," said Chef Faith. "To be able to come in and teach about good nutrition and culinary skills is fun and exciting for all of us. Working with the kids is great. They are fun and enthusiastic, and they want to learn how to make healthier meals."

From Front Left: Cargill Chef Faith Ford and farmer Nancy Miller, Cafeteria Manager Jennie Cheesman, Deputy Sheriff James Darville, and cooking teacher Dana Michelle celebrated 'The Art of Turkey' with an enthusiastic group of students that learned more about food nutrition and engaged in a hands-on cooking demonstration.

To make sure customers are receiving the highest quality turkey products possible, Shady Brook Farms trusts independent farmers like Mrs. Nancy Miller, who owns a farm with her husband in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The Miller family are among 700 independent farmers who produce the high standard of food Cargill delivers to its customers. "Food is a passion for me," said Mrs. Miller. "Once you eat healthy, your body changes. You think better. You feel better."

Like all Shady Brook Farms (regional brand) and Honeysuckle White (local brand found in Florida grocery stores) turkey growers, the Miller family farm follows a three-part verification processturkeys raised by independent farmers, producers trained on proper animal handling practices, and the non-use of growth hormoneswhich far exceeds all current regulation requirements. Cargill is the first major turkey brand to make this quality-enhancing commitment to produce turkeys free of growth-promoting antibiotics in an animal-friendly environment.

Cargill's commitment to using only the highest quality turkey aligns with the labor of love Mrs. Miller feels for farming and animals. "You respect the animals. They give their life for you to live, so you want to give them the best possible environment. We raise our turkeys with the utmost care and dedication to make other families feel good about choosing Shady Brook Farms turkey."

Mrs. Miller is an advocate for regularly having turkey-based options on school menus. "Turkey is a plus food. It tastes good, it is good for you, and it is affordable."

What was it like meeting students that benefited from the work she does on the farm? "Wonderful. The kids at Space Coast are phenomenal. There is so much life in this school."

Lisa Douglas is an Education Segment Manager for KeyImpact Sales and Systems who connects food vendors with schools to help meet the food requirements outlined by the USDA. Previously, she worked as a Cafeteria Manager in Orlando for 7 years. She is as passionate about providing students quality food as she is about educating them about the cafeteria menu. "To me, it's about making the kids happy, seeing the smiles on their faces, and knowing they're eating something healthy," said Mrs. Douglas. "It's also important to explain to kids why USDA regulations have changed, and teach team how cafeterias are upholding these requirements."

"It's always the best part of my day to see when kids are excited about the good food they are eating in the cafeteria," said Mrs. Douglas. "Some kids were holding up the turkey drumettes and saying, 'Wow! Look at this!'"

Students lined up to enjoy the Shady Brook Farms turkey drumettes served during National School Lunch Week. Shady Brook Farms turkey is a lean and nutritious protein, raised without growth hormones, and offers a rich source of protein, iron, zinc, and other vital nutrients.

"Cargill does everything from food ingredients to flavors to food that we serve to K-12 such as turkey products and eggs," said Mrs. McCarty. "Our role is ensuring we have safe, nutritious, high-quality products for kids that they'll enjoy eating. Schools must meet USDA requirements of protein, fats, calories, sodium, and all kinds of meat equivalents they have to reach. So we as a food manufacturer are very focused on helping cafeteria managers meet these kinds of requirements in appealing and versatile ways."

Included in The Art of Turkey program is a semester-long mural project that aims to meet portfolio requirements of the curriculum standards for Mrs. Carol Souve's honors art students. Cargill is paying for all of the supplies for Space Coast students to paint a mural that is inspired by the NSLW presentations.

The mural will incorporate different aspects of Mrs. Miller's farm, which she described to the class. "Our farm faces the West Virginia mountains. We have two dogs. We raise corn. Each student participating in the mural project will focus on a different aspect of the farm on their separate canvas and then everything will connect."

"With 18 by 24 canvases, each separate panel will be able to function on its own so each one will be a piece of artwork on its own but together they will create a whole work of art," said Mrs. Souve.

Yet another dimension of the Shady Brook Farms school visit that further increased student engagement was a photo booth set up on a decorated stage in the cafeteria.

Students and teachers, alike, got in on the fun of posing with an inflated turkey to celebrate The Art of Turkey during NSLW.

One of the key players in the planning of what was a uniquely powerful celebration of healthful, flavorful food during NSLW was Ms. Jessie Poole, part of the public relations arm of the Shady Brook Farms brand. "We are trying to get good, nutritious food in schools," she said.

Ms. Poole collaborated with Mrs. Cheesman in coordinating the first 'Art of Turkey' event at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School in hopes of continuing to use the in-school demonstrations and other student-centered activities to help promote healthier food choices in schools across the nation.

Fueled by quality farming, quality food, and quality people, the Shady Brooks Farms school visit boiled down to a common theme.  "The importance of showing kids where their food comes from and understanding the importance of good nutrition," said Mrs. McCarty.

To learn more about Shady Brook Farms, visit their websiteTo read about their family of 700 independent farmers focused on raising safe, nutritious, high-quality turkey, visit 700 Reasons.

See how the School Nutrition Association is promoting healthy foods in schools across the nation at NSLW.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fire Education Saves Lives

Brevard County Fire Rescue Inspectors 
Show Students How to Prevent and Put Out Fires

In 1944, Smokey the Bear began promoting fire prevention and soon became famous for its simple but powerful declaration, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires."

Nearly three-quarters of a century later, fire prevention remains an urgent public safety topic...and not just in a forest.

Fire not only destroys property, it hurts and kills people. According to statistics cited from Fire Loss in the United States 2013 (by Michael Karter), in the United States alone, 369,500 home fires were reported in 2013. The fires resulted in 2,755 deaths, 12,200 injuries, and $6.8 billion of property damage.

While all teachers at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School always have student safety at the forefront of their thinking, no one is more committed to making sure students are safe at and away from school than cooking teacher Mrs. Dana Michell. She implores her students to take extra safety precautions when cooking, and to be prepared to swiftly and skillfully manage any unexpected fires in the kitchen.

Why all the fuss about cooking safety? The kitchen is the most common origin of home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report, Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment (by Marty Ahrens), "Cooking is, and has long been, the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries."

Mrs. Michell knows education can help prevent fires from starting and keep fires that do start under control so that lives are saved and property damage is minimized. Refusing to allow her students to become a statistic, she recently welcomed two Brevard County Fire Rescue Inspectors/Arson Investigators, Mr. Jeffrey Krupinski and Mr. Tony Mills, to her classroom to provide students with an interactive, hands-on lesson that could wind up saving their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

In addition to educating the public on smoke detector awareness during Fire Prevention Week, these fire experts volunteered their time to address Mrs. Michell's students. They presented a PowerPoint on kitchen safety, showed a video on the potential dangers of cooking with grease, and covered a wide range of topics related to fire prevention and preparation. While every topic provided vital safety tips, the primary objective of the lesson was to teach students how to use a fire extinguisher.

"I honestly had no clue how to use one," said Travis Berry, a junior who plays on the varsity football team.

Travis is not alone. While fire extinguishers are prevalent in kitchens and buildings around the nation, very few people actually know how to properly use onea torching thought considering what is at stake.

"We all grow up with fire extinguishers all around us, but 9 out of 10 people have never held one, much less deployed it to extinguish a fire," said Inspector Krupinsky.

Fire Inspector/Arson Investigator Jeffrey Krupinsky helped teach students
basic techniques of using a fire extinguisher to put out fires.

"They showed us how to use a fire extinguisher," said Travis. "It was pretty cool. It was an electrical one, same weight and everything. It had a laser instead of a spray to it. The best part was learning how to put out a fire the right way."

"We received the simulator through a federal grant," said Inspector Krupinsky. "We have the ability to use a digital laser or we can also do live burns with propane and use a fire extinguisher with water. It is too hot to be messing with fire outside, especially during the summer and fall, so it is better to use the digital indoor simulator. The simulator we used in the classroom was a digital laser one."

Travis has a deep-rooted appreciation for the jobs paramedics and firefighters do. "My girlfriend's father is a paramedic in Merritt Island," said Travis. "He is one of the first responders. He tells me being a firefighter is a pretty cool job. He said the hardest part is getting a call in the middle of the night, swinging out of bed from a deep sleep, and jumping into the fire truck to go respond, but he loves it."

He also appreciates the time the Brevard County Fire Rescue inspectors take out of their busy schedules to help educate the community on the basics of fire prevention and crisis management. "I think it's smart teaching students these techniques," said Travis. "Firefighters can't go to everyone's homes to educate everybody. You don't want someone dying of a fire because they don't know how to put it out, so educating us and encouraging us to educate others helps save lives."

"We hope at this age, the students have the ability to go home and share that information with siblings and parents," said Inspector Krupinksy. "We told them, our job is to educate you and your job is to go and educate others, whether it is a parent or a sibling or a friend."

What did Travis learn that he would like to pass along to his fellow students and families around the community? "Just remember the four easy steps: pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep."

"PASS is a simple acronym on how to use a fire extinguisher," said Inspector Krupinsky. "Pull the pin. Aim the fire extinguisher hose at the base of the fire. Squeeze the handle. Sweep it back and forth at the base of the fire. It shoots a very fine powder that sticks to everything. As you are building fine layers of powder, you are cutting the fire off from the oxygen around it. Without oxygen, the fire goes out."

Years of responding to fire-related incidents, and seeing so many accidents and tragedies that could have been prevented, make Inspectors Krupinsky and Mills the perfect teachers to help students understand the basics of both preventing and putting out fires.

Inspector Krupinsky said, "As firefighters, we have responded to numerous kitchen fires. As paramedics, we have responded to numerous calls that would have turned out better if it had been handled with proper techniques. We try to teach students the proper techniques to fire prevention and handling a fire extinguisher. To do anything for the first time in a stressful situation is very difficult, so practice is important. You have a sense of not panicking if you've done it before. Like riding a bike, once you learn how to do it, you'll remember."

Inspector Mills, who has over 25 years of experience as a firefighter and paramedic, reflected upon the successful visit to Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School by deferring all kudos to his colleague. "The credit goes to Inspector Krupinksy. He does the fire extinguisher classes. He also covers the hazards of cooking."

To Inspector Krupinsky, teaching fire prevention is about making life safer for others. "We always like to teach," he said. "That's part of our job now. It's that time of the year for us to get out in the public and educate them." 

In addition to these and other duties, Inspector Krupinsky also teaches adults in the community to help them receive annual certification for various businesses and professions that require teachers or staff members to be certified, such as daycare positions.  

What does Inspector Krupinksy hope students will best remember about the lesson? "Be proactive instead of reactive," he said. "If you are frying, be prepared for what could happen. Never, ever put water on a grease fire. You will steam-burn yourself with oil. Have a pot holder for the pot handle and a tight-fitting lid that fits the pot or pan that you're frying in. That way, if you do have a fire, all you need to do is to remove the pot from the heat source and put a lid on it, and the fire goes away. What we're doing is taking the oxygen away from the fire, and it goes out."

Throwing water on a grease fire can result in serious injury or death. Grease is so hot
that it will instantly heat the water and cause an explosion that will spread the fire.

"Be proactive and prepared for what might happen," said Inspector Krupinsky. "A lot of times, it goes from a controllable situation to an uncontrollable situation when you aren't prepared, so go home and make sure mom and dad have a lid for whatever pot or pan they are using."

"I especially wanted students to know the dangers of frying and cooking with hot grease," said Mrs. Michell. "The fire inspectors covered that perfectly."

Other safety tips for cooking? "Turn your handles in over the stove," said Inspector Krupinsky. "At home, if you leave a little handle out, a younger brother or sister might see it and pull it down. As a paramedic who has responded to calls like that, you don't want to live with knowing you could have prevented an accident or tragedy from happening."

An understanding of the different types of fires is also helpful as some fire extinguishers are only made specifically to put out certain types of fires. Inspector Krupinsky said, "An 'A' fire is anything that produces ash such as paper or wood; a 'B' fire is boiling-related, a liquid burning fire; and a 'C' fire has a current. What we have at schools are A-B-C extinguishers, so they are safe to use on all fires."

Hopefully, incorporating the lessons they learned from the fire inspectors into their cooking routines will help students and their families prevent kitchen fires. In a worst-case scenario, they will now be prepared with proper firefighting techniques.

As Smokey the Bear might say, "Only YOU can prevent kitchen fires...but if one breaks out, don't PASS on the chance to put it out."

To read about all of the ways Brevard County Fire Rescue is helping to keep families across Brevard safe, visit their homepage at BCFR.

To learn more about NFPA's Fire Prevention Week, visit NFPA.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

New Director Harmoniously Successful

Viper Chorus Director Not Missing a Beat

Mr. Michel Avey probably didn't know it when he interviewed for the position over the summer, but the charismatic new Choral Director and Junior Orchestra Director had big shoes to fill.

Shoes full of nearly two decades worth of notes, tempos, and tones.

At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, beloved Chorus/Orchestra Director, Mrs. Sharon Maslin, retired following 17 years of service to Viper families. Anyone who attended an orchestra or chorus concert directed by Mrs. Maslin knows just how passionate she was about helping her students explore their musical talents and reach their full creative potential.

As much as Mrs. Maslin's body of work is appreciated and her endearing personality is missed by her colleagues and students, Mr. Avey hasn't wasted any time putting his own signature on a successful music program.

In fact, Mr. Avey has already had a soprano-like impact on his students.

Case in point: Norman McCorvey, a senior.

Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School Choral Director and Junior Orchestra Director, Mr. Michel Avey,
and senior Viper student, Norman McCorvey, share a passion for music.

During a recent tryout for All State Chorus, Norman scored 47/50 on the Musicianship Written Test and 36/40 on the Sight Reading Measures. To put his performance into perspective, his scores not only enabled him to skip the following audition but he also automatically qualified for the highly selective All State Sight Reading Choir, where Norman will encounter even more challenging music and be required to perform it in a shorter period of time.

Last year, Norman placed so much pressure on himself to sound better that he chose not to participate in the All State Sight Reading Choir. Since then, with encouragement and direction from Mr. Avey and a ton of hard work at and away from school, Norman raised his bar of performance to levels only the elite of choir students are able to reach.

"The day after the audition, Mr. Avey said, 'Hey, you made the reading choir!'" said Norman. "It felt really good. A lot of my friends had done three auditions but not been invited back to perform.  I've done it 4 years and every time I had to do a third audition, which is a lot of extra stress. Being a senior makes it even harder because I want to do this so badly."

Norman started playing piano beginning at 8 years old, but he was born with a passion for music. "I always valued music. In church, we sing, and I've always enjoyed the music. Different genres of music allow you to express different types of feelings and emotions."

"Norman is a brilliant musician," said Mr. Avey. "He just sees a piece of music and understands how it works, which is the sign of a very talented musician."

Successes are singing like melodies among Mr. Avey's students.

Last weekend, 12 Viper students auditioned to be in the select group of singers chosen for the Florida All State Chorus, which represent the best singers in the state. Every student gave it their all at the audition, which consisted of a 50-question written test and an individual Sight Reading Assessment in front of a panel of judges. The following students passed the first round of auditions:

The only thing standing between these talented students and being selected to participate in the All State Choirs is one more Vocal Quality audition.

Mr. Avey knows his students would benefit from such an achievement. "I made All State Choir three times in high school," said Mr. Avey, who earned a Music Education degree from the University of South Florida. "It was one of the best experiences. That is what inspired me to be a music teacher."

Norman first made All State Chorus in the 8th grade, and has made it every year in high school. "In the lower grades, music might not be as important to kids. They might think it is an easy elective class. In All State, everyone is serious about music. It's a passion everyone shares."

"It's like reading a book you're passionate about," continued Norman. "It's hard to talk to somebody about a book they don't like, so you look for someone who values it as much as you do. A book club, for instance. For me, the book club would be like All State, because there are a lot of people there who love music like I do."

Regardless of the outcome of the next audition, everyone at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School is extremely proud of the dedication of these students.

Seeing his students excel is a driving force behind Mr. Avey's efforts as a teacher. "My goal is making kids more passionate about music," he said. "Finding kids that are the most passionate and getting them to strive to be better." 

His predecessor's legacy is large, but no beats have been missed in the choral classroom. Early in his career, Mr. Avey has already proven his shoes fit just fine.

Stay tuned for periodic updates throughout the school year on the ongoing successes of our outstanding music department led by Mr. Avey and Ms. Christina Cuny, Band Director.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.