Annoyed by Navy Bean Pie Recipe, Michigan Students Take Federal School Lunch Program – Agweek

Donuts may be the key that opens the door to new opportunities for using edible dry beans in school lunch programs.

The US Dry Beans Council, which includes members from North Dakota and Minnesota, has worked for years to increase the presence of commodities in USDA food programs, such as school lunches, and now they have support from an unexpected backer—a high-level Culinary and Catering Department category.

Young and old in class at the Muskegon (Michigan) Area Career Tech Center have gone to bat to include beans in their school lunch program in mashed form, hoping to achieve a home experiment of feeding students and making edible beans.

The motivation for hospitality and management students to change USDA policy was the discovery that cakes made with a mashed form of edible beans did not qualify for compensation in the school lunch program because the commodity was unknown.

The irony that navy beans aren’t considered a protein because they’re mashed doesn’t get away with Joe Kramer, executive director of the Michigan Bean Commission.

“We have this little rule that says a bean isn’t a bean, if you break it down,” Kramer said. “What a simple thing to change that would make such a difference, not just for children, but for the economic impact on farmers in states like Michigan and North Dakota.”

For decades, the U.S. Dry Bean Council has worked to increase the use of edible beans in school lunches and other USDA food aid programs, said Patrick King, a member of the American Bean Council and owner of PW Montgomery LLC, a marketing company for edible beans. The company distributes in Fargo, North Dakota.

One of the challenges in incorporating edible beans into school lunches has been finding palatable ways to achieve this goal.

“That’s our challenge, getting something kids to eat — not just cereal from the can,” King said.

If the USDA rule is changed so that it recognizes edible grains as a protein, it will help achieve the goal.

“Our whole goal is to get more food in the food aid market,” he said. “There is an enormous need for food aid.”

Zoe Fauble made with mashed navy beans has a 91% approval rating by primary and high school taste testers.

Contribute / Michelle Greer

Meanwhile, the increasing demand for edible beans will benefit the farmers who grow them.

“Beans are a really important part of the rotation, especially here in North Dakota,” King said.

Food industry veteran and student educator Elisa Pinkzar was stunned when she learned of the USDA rule that edible beans are irreplaceable in school lunch programs.

Penczar about 10 years ago taught a culinary and catering management class, which in its curriculum includes developing a recipe that would aid a statewide farm-to-school program called “10 Cent’s Meal for Michigan Kids and Farms.” Penczar is a strong advocate for local foods and encourages her students to find ways to develop recipes that can incorporate Michigan-grown foods, including apples, mushrooms, and winter squash, into USDA school lunch programs.

“The most important thing for the kids is that if it gets approved for the K-12 school lunch program, the USDA will publish their recipe,” Penczar said. The recipe will be available in school lunch program cookbooks and online.

Penczar begins the recipe development section of her class by asking students to brainstorm ways to incorporate locally grown foods into their recipes, which must meet USDA guidelines for school feeding. Few students have a recipe in mind that they want to tweak, but many are searching online and in cookbooks for ideas. Once the recipes are chosen, they modify them until they meet the guidelines.

The Muskegon Area Career Tech Center does not have a school lunch program, so Penczar teams up with Dan Gorman, director of food services for nearby Montague (Michigan) public schools. Gorman has experience with USDA nutrition guidelines and can apply for USDA grants, such as a nutrition grant he received two years ago that was intended to develop menu items that incorporate local foods.

During the 2021-22 school year over the course of eight weeks, Zoe Fauble, a 12th grader in her Culinary and Restaurant Management class, developed a pie recipe using homemade mashed navy beans, shredded sweet potatoes, and sliced ​​apples. 91% of elementary and high school students in Montage gave the cupcakes a thumbs up.

As it turns out, the donuts, paired with a glass of milk, meet the USDA’s requirements for a refundable school breakfast. According to a nutritional analysis of a Montague-area school nutrition intern who works with Gorman, the muffins also contain less than 60% of the fat of a typical hand-held and microwaved waffle in a food manufacturer’s package, according to a press release from Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, a communications partner with the Michigan Department of Education.

Meanwhile, a muffin and milk breakfast contains nearly eight times more fiber, twice as much vitamin D and 36% protein — 12% more protein than a breakfast waffle — according to the Groundwork for Resilient Communities news release.

But the intern also pointed out to Zoe and her class that the USDA wouldn’t count navy beans as a protein unless they were in their whole form.

A girl and boy wearing aprons and hairnets make food in their class.

From left, Zoe Vobel and her classmate, Garrett Sercher, developed recipes during their Culinary and Restaurant Management class.

Contribute / Michelle Greer

When the students and Penczar did research and read the 40-page USDA guidelines on reimbursement, they knew the intern was right.

“They don’t count unless you can actually see the beans inside,” Penczar said. “Who the heck would eat a pie with big grains?”

Zoe and her colleagues were disappointed by what they saw as a “dumb rule,” so Banzar encouraged them to work on changing it, rather than just complaining about it.

Meanwhile, Gorman thought there was potential for change because until recently the USDA did not compensate school lunch programs for juices because the fruit was unrecognizable. Samia Hamdan, nutrition program manager for the Food and Nutrition Services Agency in the Chicago Midwest office, stresses that camouflaging vegetables by mashing them may not teach and encourage students to recognize, eat, and enjoy a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables, according to a Job Center press release. essential for resilient societies.

“We want to teach children what a balanced diet looks like,” Hamdan was quoted as saying in the press release.

However, the USDA has approved chickpeas, which is mashed chickpeas, and refried beans, mashed from pinto beans, to be in the reimbursable school lunch program.

Students of Penczar’s Muskegon Area Career Tech Center Culinary and Catering Management believe that there should be “fairness in the beans,” and that whole beans and mashed beans should be treated in the same way, just as yogurt and fruits and vegetables blended into smoothies are allowed like fruits and vegetables. protein.

A woman in black pants, a gray shirt, a white apron and a chef's hat puts muffin liners into the pan.

Zoe Fauble developed a pie recipe for her class at the Muskegon (Michigan) Area Career Tech Center Culinary and Catering Management.

Contribute / Michelle Greer

When Penczar students expressed their disappointment and frustration about the USDA rule, she encouraged them to take action to change it, stating that they would face what they called the “dumb rule” their whole lives.

Working to change policy was a civics lesson in the government bureaucracy.

First, the students contacted the USDA Hamdan Regional Office in Chicago and set an appointment to present their reasons for the rule change and then put together a slide show to convince them. The slideshow included information from Cramer about the edible beans, the sustainable method of producing the beans, and the nutritional value of the commodity.

After watching the slide show, USDA regional staff told the students that they were powerless to change the rules set by Congress. Students modified the slide show and made a video with more information about edible grains and “influencers” to talk about the commodity, then called the office of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabeno, D.M., who chairs the Senate for Agriculture. A committee.

Stabenow’s office in turn referred them and spoke via Zoom with Deputy Director of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Jacqueline Schneider.

Penczar said Schneider met with the students, Penczar and Gorman, via Zoom for more than an hour and a half, listening to their presentations and asking questions.

Then Schneider told them that Congress had not set the rule about whether mashed beans could be included in school lunches — the USDA did.

Last May, students attended a Michigan Local Food Board Network Legislative Day network meeting to learn about ways they could contact the federal USDA to influence policy changes that included writing letters and obtaining letters of support from local Michigan legislators.

In late June, the students drafted a letter they would send to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, letters of support from local lawmakers. Meanwhile, the Michigan Bean Commission has passed a motion to support student efforts to change the rule.

Kramer was impressed by the students’ drive for rule change and their perseverance. “As a committee, we support them as much as we can,” he said.

Hamdan commends students for looking at ways to make meals more nutritious, and the USDA regional agency will do all it can to support students in their quest for policy change.

The outcome of the students’ efforts isn’t determined by late June, but the project was a lesson in commodity recognition from the ground up, and that’s what Penczar strives to teach in the hospitality and food service class.

For example, during a recipe development project, Kyle Viepage, director of the Muskegon District Occupational Technology Center, which grows in the “Thumb District of Michigan” spoke to the class about edible bean production.

“Every time we introduce local foods, we talk about sustainability and nutrition,” she said. “Alongside these, her students this time learned the process involved in making policy and how to change it, gaining knowledge and respect and promoting the edible bean industry along the way.

For example, at a May 2022 field hearing on the Farm Bill 2023 held this spring in East Lansing, Michigan, students distributed brochures about the nutritional benefits of edible beans, wore bean-logo polo shirts and testified to support a rule change.

“I don’t think there has been much representation for bean growers at all,” Penczar said.

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