Austintown and Boardman food workers chosen for USDA training

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Two local food directors were chosen by the state of Ohio to attend the Produce Safety University hosted by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Tascin Brooks, with Austintown Schools, and Natalie Winkle with Boardman Schools, were two of only three workers chosen throughout the state.

Both Brooks and Winkle say they love their job and are always thinking of creative ways to serve food to students while still meeting standards and this new training will help.

Austintown has a salad bar at the high school for students, and Boardman launched a Tot Chef program, teaching elementary school students how to make healthy snacks.

There is a push for farm to school food supply, but food service directors have to learn about the process from the beginning stages to the farm. They are also going to learn how to properly handle and clean the produce to make sure bacteria isn’t passed along to students.

“We are always trying to think outside of the box and recreate food service. We have been handed some very strict guidelines and it is a challenge every day. It’s a challenge to make the food good, but if we have fresh things, students seem to gravitate toward this,” Brooks said.

Winkle said a lot of students have no idea where their food comes from and seeing fresh ingredients gives them a better understanding.

“If they see it in the fresh state versus everything canned, everything processed, they get a better understanding of how it got to them. How it grew from seed and became food for them,” Winkle said.

Once Winkle ad Brooks return from the training, they will be able to bring those ideas back to not only their home schools but to other districts in the Valley.