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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 through October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month and we’re celebrating with culturally inclusive school meals.

Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 through October 15 and we’re celebrating these communities through culturally inclusive school meals. According to the United States Census Bureau, “The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period”.

At the Chef Ann Foundation (CAF), we believe that healthy, scratch-cooked school meals can change lives and that it’s important to honor cultural differences within diverse communities across the nation. We connected with CAF Board Member, David De La Rosa about what Hispanic Heritage month means to him and how school food programs can support and celebrate cultural diversity through the meals they serve. Additionally, we’re highlighting some of our favorite Hispanic school meal recipes on The Lunch Box. Read on to hear from David and explore these Hispanic recipes.

Connecting with David

Can you share a bit about your own cultural identity?
My parents were born in Guadalajara Mexico but immigrated to the US in 1979. Their original plan was to work and save money so my dad could buy a work truck in Mexico. A decade later he started his construction company in Palm Springs, and all six of us (all boys) worked in the family business at some point in our lives.

What does this month mean to you personally?
Hispanic Heritage Month gives me an opportunity to highlight aspects of my upbringing and culture. My father’s birthday is on September 15th, so we usually celebrate by watching a boxing match that includes a Mexican boxer (e.g, Canelo) and a carne asada BBQ.

What are some ways we can learn and support Hispanic culture without appropriation?
Food! There is so much more to Hispanic food than tacos and burritos. I would encourage people to visit new restaurants and select different menu items to explore the varieties of options our culture has to offer.

Are there any specific recipes that your family made growing up that are important to your heritage/traditions that you would have liked to see in your school cafeteria?
One of my childhood favorites is “Albondigas”. It’s a meatball soup with a ton of flavor that can include some delicious vegetables and potatoes.

How do you think schools can implement culturally inclusive foods into their school menus without neglecting the culture behind the foods?
Schools can learn more about the power of spices. Hispanic culture includes a variety of countries from Mexico to Argentina, but there are different ways of flavoring the same food that can yield different culinary results.

Eight states have passed healthy school meals for all legislation to ensure children have access to healthy school meals. Why do you think the passage of healthy school meals for ALL is so important for families and children of various communities across the nation?
The goal of the school environment is for our children to have the resources, support, and basic needs to flourish as students. There is no debating that access to healthy school meals improves learning outcomes.

What do you envision for the future of scratch cooking in schools? How can we ensure that certain cultures are not left out of the conversation when it comes to school food reform?
As universal meals and scratch cooking are rolled out across the country it is important for school districts to understand their student populations and for the menus to reflect the communities where they are located.

The Journey to Pozole

Chef Brandy Dreibelis, Executive Director of Culinary at the Chef Ann Foundation, previously served as the Director of Food Services at Napa Valley Unified School District (NOSH) for three years. One of the most valuable lessons that Chef Brandy learned during her time at Nosh was involving her staff in recipe and menu feedback and truly listening to their advice on ways to adjust the menu to student’s tastes.

When Chef Brandy first got to Napa, she created a menu that she thought would be well versed for the student population. It wasn’t long before one of the employees came to her various times asking to put Pozole on the menu. After hearing this request for about a month, Chef Brandy told her that she wanted the employee’s pozole recipe that she made at home. The plan was to turn her home-cooked recipe into a school food recipe, which meant that it would meet the costing allocations and the USDA nutrition guidelines. Chef Brandy let her know that they would first market this new Pozole recipe to the school community and then menu the recipe district-wide rather than just serving it at her school.

The Pozole ended up being a major hit and is still a top seller on NOSH’s menu years later. Most importantly, the Pozole celebrates their staff, their community and their student population. Culturally relevant menu items create a sense of comfort and can teach kids about their heritage and food traditions. Although pozole was one of their most popular menu items, there were a number of other things that they included on the menu to be inclusive of their Hispanic heritage. They incorporated simple homemade salsas for topping burritos and tacos, added conchas to their breakfast menu and even tweaked common steak sandwiches into carne asada tortas. These simple changes not only elevated the flavor of their recipes but helped increase meal participation as well.

Continuing the Celebration

As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, one thing is clear: food is a powerful tool for preserving and sharing cultural traditions. Through the unique flavors and ingredients of Hispanic cuisine, we are offered a glimpse into the rich and diverse history of Hispanic culture.

In addition to this delicious Pozole recipe, you can also find other Hispanic heritage school food recipes such as Black Bean Empanadas and Cuban sandwiches on The Lunch Box. These recipes are a great way to introduce Hispanic inspired cuisine into your scratch cooked menu. If you’re unfamiliar with this style of cooking, give these simple recipes a try!

Continuing the Celebration

As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, one thing is clear: food is a powerful tool for preserving and sharing cultural traditions. Through the unique flavors and ingredients of Hispanic cuisine, we are offered a glimpse into the rich and diverse history of Hispanic culture.

In addition to this delicious Pozole recipe, you can also find other Hispanic heritage school food recipes such as Black Bean Empanadas and Cuban sandwiches on The Lunch Box. These recipes are a great way to introduce Hispanic inspired cuisine into your scratch cooked menu. If you’re unfamiliar with this style of cooking, give these simple recipes a try!

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