Mansfield Public School Food Service Director Featured in National School Nutrition Magazine
School Nutrition Magazine, a nationally distributed publication for food service professionals, is featuring a recipe in the March issue created by Stephanie Richard, MS, RD, the Food Service Director for Mansfield Public Schools. See the article here: https://editions.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?m=21033&i=698992&p=48
The article, “Better For You Baked Goods” highlights ways to adjust baked goods adding whole grain flour, lowering the fat, and adding other ingredients to help meet the Federal guidelines on meal planning for school students. Ms Richard’s Kale-Zucchini bread was among four featured recipes. This baked item stars in the district’s yearly Thanksgiving Feast meal and has been served at special events. Ms Richard created this recipe as a way to introduce two locally grown vegetables to students: kale and zucchini.
“We are proud to use as much locally grown fruits and vegetables in our meal planning as possible in Mansfield Schools,” says Ms Richard. “This bread is popular across the district. It’s thrilling to know food service staff across the country might be adapting the recipe for their use.”
Ms Richard works with local farmers to plan for the district’s foods needs each spring, then purchases vegetables in quantity at the height of the growing season. When the schools’ kitchens are quiet during the summer, district staff processes such staples as squash, zucchini, winter squash, tomatoes and kale, freezing them for use throughout the school year.
“Mansfield is committed to connecting community through local food, an initiative known as The Taste of Mansfield,” says Ms Richard. “The school district is one of the partners who continually works to teach our families why purchasing local food is so important, and how farms are vital to the fabric of our town. I’m proud to tell students that the apples on their tray all year come from an orchard just five miles away. A culture of valuing local food matters.”
Ms Richard also received recognition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently for the district’s efforts in feeding students in the district during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter from Cindy Long, Acting Administrator of the U.S Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, she says,
“Thank you for your extraordinary commitment and hard work in planning, preparing, serving, and distributing safe and nutritious meals, while setting students up for success. Your community's school nutrition story was shared recently with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) by your State agency as an exemplary representation of how local program operators were empowered to ensure that no child goes hungry during this time."
“It’s such an honor for our school district to have Stephanie’s recipe featured in this national publication,” says Kelly Lyman, Superintendent of Mansfield Public Schools. “Stephanie is an extension of our educational team, continually exposing our students to new foods and healthy eating. She and her staff have committed themselves to ensuring all our students receive healthy meals. This commitment has continued throughout the pandemic. The food services staff have gone above and beyond to ensure all of our students have been fed and fed well whether students are attending school in person or learning from home. We are fortunate to have a food service director with this commitment who is also devoted to sourcing local foods and producing creative meals.”
Ms Richard’s passion for promoting healthy eating led her to testify this month before the Connecticut State Legislature’s Education Committee about funding for the CT Grown to CT Kids Grants. In her testimony she told the Education Committee members, “A CT Grown for CT Kids grants program could help me do more with my Eat Local at Mansfield Public Schools program, it could fuel many other programs like mine, and it could help build a larger community practice of school food directors that are innovating in the cafeteria while supporting local farm businesses. This testimony only touches how farm to school programs impact school food service programs and farmers. Farm to school work goes beyond the kitchen and cafeteria, into classrooms in almost any subject area, indoors and outdoors, and beyond out into the community, a true win-win for any district.”
Ms Richard is responsible for the meal planning, purchasing, preparation and food service staff at three elementary schools, and middle school serving Mansfield students, and the regional high school serving Mansfield, Ashford, Willington and Windham students. Her staff has served approximately 2750 meals per week this school year, for students in person and learning virtually at home. She also makes time in her schedule to speak to classes about the challenges of her job, and creates special food events for the schools and the town.
Stephanie has worked for the school district for almost five years. She received her Masters’ Degree from the University of Connecticut in Health Promotion and Education in conjunction with completing a dietetic internship. Stephanie is a Registered Dietitian. Prior to working in Mansfield Stephanie was the dietitian for a group home agency working with developmentally disabled individuals. A lifelong resident of Willimantic, Stephanie and her husband, an executive chef, just recently purchased a home near the shoreline.