The new hot lunch program is off to a good start, but who is the person behind all that chopping, slicing, frying, and baking in the videos? Here, we introduce the school’s new Food Services Worker.
Tell us about yourself
You can call me Ms. Masako and I was hired by the school district as a Food Services Worker. I basically cook hot lunches for the kids while the community school takes care of administering things. I studied at a “cafe school” to learn about the food service business and briefly worked at a French restaurant. I also ran my own little bakery before I was hired here.
How did this come about?
Courtenay Elementary has always had some kind of unofficial meal program, but it became more of an official position with funding from the Student and Family Affordability Fund and the community school advocating for it.
What will you be cooking for the kids?
I was born and raised in Japan and grew up with a hot lunch program when I was in school. It was great and I have good memories of it. I want to try and do something similar here. I want to make well-balanced lunches and introduce new flavours and food. That may mean the kids might be served something they have never eaten or don’t really like, but I hope that they at least try it before saying, “Yuk.”
The kids don’t realize it, but they have been eating a lot more vegetables than they think because I’ve been finely chopping all sorts of veggies and sneaking them into the lunches. The Japanese cream stew I made was full of Napa cabbage!
Did anything surprise you during the first two weeks of the program?
There were the usual challenges of getting into a rhythm, but I think the first two weeks went well. The menu might have been a bit ambitious. For example, the sushi rolls were a hit, but making 50 rolls is a lot of work! I was barely able to make them in time for lunch. The challenge will be to simplify the menu while keeping it fun and interesting.
What surprised me is that the kids like miso soup! I wasn’t sure they would eat it, but several kids came back for seconds. This is good because I can add tofu and vegetables to it to make it more hearty. The kids also really liked peppermint tea as a choice of drink! So, miso soup and peppermint tea will be regular items on the menu.
I really hope that this lunch program can continue in the long term because I think we all know how important and fun lunch is for the kids!
Note: While this article was being written over spring break, the Province of BC announced more funding for school food programs, with School District 71 set to receive over $1 million for the 2023/2024 school year.