"Ms. Jana" and the Laconia Early Learning Center
Jana G., affectionately known as “Ms. Jana” at the Laconia Early Learning Center in Laconia, NH, has made a real difference in the lives of over 100 children. When their cook of many years left, Jana took over the kitchen and has truly changed the way the kids eat.
For starters, she introduced more fresh fruits and veggies to supplement the bananas and apples the kids were already eating – now the kids love to try strawberries, melons, pineapples, pears, blueberries, carrots, peas and more! She works with the food buyers to help them make healthier food choices, and is also creative with the foods that are available to her and that she finds on hand. For example, Jana roasts turkeys for one meal and then will boil down the bones to make a delicious stock for another meal. The children are open to trying new things, as Jana makes the presentation exciting and also incorporates learning about food and cooking into the Center’s curriculum.
Marti Ilg, the Program Coordinator at the Center, shares, “Jana’s positive energy impressed us from the start! When our cook of many years left, Jana was the first choice to take over, in part because of her food service experience but mostly because of her interest in integrating a greater level of knowledge of food and cooking into the classrooms. She expressed the additional goal of ‘making all meals from scratch using fresh and organic ingredients.’ She is well on her way to achieving all of these things and is beloved member of our staff. At mealtime there is much conversation about the food. Ms. Jana receives many notes and drawings – she proudly displays them all!”
You can follow Ms. Jana’s footsteps by focusing on three key areas in your school or childcare setting:
- Be open to incorporating new foods into the mix – work with food buyers to find out what is in season or how you can add new ingredients to weekly orders to change up the meals
- Get creative with what you’ve got, especially if you’re on a budget – “stretch” foods into more than one meal, or buy some foods in bulk at a lower cost to create a variety of meals (check out some of Rach’s Rollover Meals for ideas!)
- Talk about food and cooking in the classroom – kids are more interested in trying new things if they have a chance to learn where their food comes from!