FORSYTH COUNTY — Getting students to eat vegetables and whole grains is no easy task, but Lisa Hasse and Dee Mathis are up for the challenge.
The two Forsyth County school system cafeteria managers were among the top eight in the state at the recent Georgia School Nutrition Association’s State Culinary Competition.
Both were named as finalists — Hasse in the whole grain breakfast category and Mathis in the vegetable category.
“I was lucky enough to go last year too,” said Mathis, cafeteria manager at Sharon Elementary School. “It’s always a treat to go and represent school food nutrition and it’s always nice to give different food ideas and recipes.”
The eighth annual competition was held at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Tucker, where chief instructors judged the events. They looked for the appeal of the foods, as well as whether they met nutritional standards and included locally grown ingredients.
Hasse prepared chocolate muffin tops, which are typically served in her Brookwood Elementary School cafeteria every Monday and Thursday at breakfast.
They’re popular, she said, won’t have enough whole grain to meet standards next year. Her recipe used whole wheat flour and also substituted sugar with applesauce as a sweetener.
“They were looking for a new recipe for next year,” she said. “It was a thrill just competing, getting in there and seeing what would happen.”
If her recipe is a [top three] finalist and approved by the state, the new-and-improved muffin tops could make it on the breakfast menu for next year, Hasse said.
Mathis’ cold veggie medley was inspired by the school’s vegetable garden.
“The banana peppers I had used in the initial recipe were actually banana peppers we had grown in our school garden,” she said. “We’re trying to use more fresh produce and highlight Georgia Grown.”
The peppers were joined in the medley by squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots and black olives, all topped with a combination of vinegar and ranch dressing. Mathis also is hopeful her recipe could make it on the Brookwood menu next year.
“If you place [in the top three] or win at the state level, then it’s something you can incorporate ... once it gets approved nutrition-wise,” she said.
Even if she doesn’t place, Mathis said the experience of competing has been worth it.
“I always enjoy meeting other school nutrition workers and getting different ideas in different districts, because this is from all over the state,” she said.
The top three recipes in the state will be determined later this week at a competition on Jekyll Island.