What a way to end the school year. Students at Jennie Dean Elementary School will be able to try something different for lunch Thursday as part of Manassas' participation in the national 'Chefs Move to Schools' program.
Charles Gilliam, chef and owner of Okra's restaurant in Old Town, has teamed up with Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS) and will be preparing three New Orleans-style dishes, including Jazzy Chicken Red Beans & Rice, southern Cornbread and Spotted Corn Maque Choux, for lunch at the local elementary school.
Metz Middle School students were the first to try the new menu items created by Gilliam in an effort to get them to eat more vegetables. The seventh and eighth grade students appeared to really enjoy the new menu options, passing up the normal pizza, fries and chicken nuggets for a taste of the chef's creations.
Mayfield students also got a taste of the special menu back in March. According to Mayfield Cafeteria Manager Nancy Potter, 697 of the featured meals were served (about 98% of all meals sold that day).
MCPS obtained grants to support the program and Gilliam's goal was to learn more about what the students liked to eat and extend the program to additional city schools if successful at Metz.
"If this goes well enough, we're going to try and take it to another school in the city... this may take a couple of years but if it goes gangbusters we want it in every school in the city!"
The Chefs Move to Schools program was created under First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign and started in February of 2010 in hopes of solving the ever-growing nationwide childhood obesity problem.
The initiative is currently operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program urges chefs to participate with local schools to help educate children and staff on nutrition.