School meals just got the star treatment after NYC Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks announced Tuesday the launch of the city's first-ever Chefs Council, to be led by none other than celebrity chef Rachael Ray.
The council includes Ray and a team of other celebrated chefs, culinary industry professionals and food activists. The goal of the initiative? To create tasty and nutritious meals for kids across city schools. Wellness in the Schools (WITS), a national nonprofit that teaches kids healthy habits, is another huge partner on the program.
“Teaching students at a young age to eat healthy, nutritious meals is critical to setting them up for success,” Adams said. “The new Chefs Council will develop delicious, nutritious, culturally relevant meals for schools with direct input from students and parents. Through this partnership with WITS and our tremendous staff of school food workers, we will take school meals to the next level.”
Chaired by Ray, the council will be composed of food pros who will develop scratch-cooked, plant-based and culturally relevant recipes for the DOE's Office of Food and Nutrition Services (OFNS) They'll also provide hands-on training for OFNS chefs.
Wondering how the program will take off? Well, kids and parents will be official taste testers. The council will create over 100 recipes that will be tested in all the boroughs during the 2022-2023 school year. After feedback from students and parents, the recipes will be introduced as a monthly seasonal menu and the chefs will then train school cooks on implementing the new recipes onsite in all public school locations.
So far, the public is giving mixed reviews.
“Tell them to eat meat and stop the processed food and vegetables. It's pretty simple,” one Twitter user posted.
“Healthy minds, healthy body! Children from poor families will benefit. Hope it's prepared right and served with love,” another person posted.
Banks stressed the importance of providing healthy meals for students.
“Healthy and nourishing meals are essential in ensuring our students can succeed both inside and outside the classroom. This initiative will help to expand our menus while making sure they follow our strict health standards and are reflective of the cultures and communities we serve,” Banks said. “I’m grateful to the Chefs Council for the work they will do as part of this initiative and to our food service workers, who work day in and day out to ensure our students are well fed and cared for.”
NYC Chefs Council Members
Here's a look at who’s on the council:
Rachael Ray, Chefs Council chair, television personality, author, and philanthropist
Zoe Adjonyoh, chef, author, and media personality
Kenneth Collins, chef, Kemited Kitchen
Ricardo Diaz, chef and registered dietitian nutritionist, Wellness in the Schools
Tyler Harvey, senior director of research and development, Sakara
JJ Johnson, chef and television host
Anup Joshi, chief culinary officer, Green Top Farms
Anita Lo, chef and restaurateur
Grace Ramirez, chef, activist, author, and television personality
Chef Anthony T. Solano, founder and owner, ZoJu, Afro-Latino Vegan Restaurant
Bill Telepan, executive chef and board, Ember, Wellness in the Schools/Bon Appetit Culinary Director for the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Marion Williams, national program director, Wellness in the Schools
“Wellness in the Schools is grateful to Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks for prioritizing school meals,” Nancy Easton, co-founder and executive director, WITS, said. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Office of Food and Nutrition Services’ Cook Ambassadors and local chefs to bring scratched-cooked, plant-based, and culturally relevant food to nearly one million New York City school children. Expanding our model in the largest school district in the country is a significant step forward in advancing our mission to eliminate obesity related illnesses that begin in childhood.”
More information about NYC public schools can be found at schools.nyc.gov.
Main image: Getty Images