When Spokane Schools’ Nutrition Services Director Doug Wordell needs ideas and inspiration about how to make small changes that make a big difference, he looks to Spokane Schools’ new project-based high school, The Community School.
“It’s very diverse campus,” says Principal Cindy McMahon. Students design their own curriculum based on real-world issues. “The only requirement is that they are invested in their own learning. Students choose here because they want to do school differently,” says McMahon.
Who better to make food different?
One of the first things they did was start a culinary arts class, led by Chef Rene Sellgren. And they renamed the cafeteria the “Community School Café.”
The café incorporates round tables, plates and silverware, floral centerpieces (supplied by the horticulture program) and an impressive fruit and vegetable buffet from which students and instructors construct artful salads.
Sellgren sneaks squash into mac and cheese, and lentils into brownies. The students plant and cultivate a garden, which they use for salads, soups and seasonings. “Chef Rene” is huge fan of herbs: She roasts chicken, vegetables and baby gold Yukon potatoes with thyme, basil and rosemary.
“Someone wanted to borrow salt from me the other day, and I told him, ‘the USDA says I can’t use salt,’ ” Sellgren recalls. “He said, ‘You don’t use salt and the food still tastes good?’ You can tell their palates are starting to change.”