Group stokes taste for barley in schools
USDA database to share successful, popular recipes
By JOHN O'CONNELL
The Idaho Barley Commission is working to include the first barley dishes in a USDA recipe database used by schools.
The IBC has reached an agreement with the Bethel School District of Eugene, Ore., to pilot barley in its meal program and to develop recipes that meet the USDA's specifications.
IBC also intends to pursue partnerships aimed at developing recipes for possible inclusion in the database with school districts with "innovative" meal plans in Minnesota, Boise and Utah.
The push for more barley in school meals stems from findings of a $2,000 study the commission financed, conducted by nutrition consultant Dayle Hayes with Nutrition for the Future Inc., based in Billings, Mont. After surveying more than 340 school food service professionals, checking school menus online and visiting district meal programs, Hayes concluded few school districts use much barley.
"Unfortunately, the majority of school food service professionals have limited or no experience with foods containing barley, other than soup," IBC Administrator Kelly Olson said.
Hayes added that getting recipes approved for the database is only the first step. She said outreach efforts will also be important in convincing schools that barley is affordable, healthful and accepted by youths. Hayes believes the timing is right to make a push for barley as schools are adjusting to new 2012 nutrition standards.
She believes schools offer food barley growers a strong market, but also an opportunity to shape preferences.
"If your commodity is never in schools and kids don't see it at home, they miss out on that early formative experience in terms of food," Hayes said.
Hayes was encouraged that her research turned up a few exceptions among school districts, including a district in Alaska baking barley rolls, a barley risotto on a Virginia district's menu and a Minnesota district that sometimes uses barley flour. She noted those districts' recipes are already at the proper scale and could be immediately offered for the USDA database.
Johanna Herron, Farm to School coordinator with the Alaska Division of Agriculture, said the roll recipe was supplied by the Fairbanks School District, tweaked for barley by University of Alaska Fairbanks Extension educators and made with flour from a new mill opened by a local grain grower. The mill now supplies barley flour and cream of barley cereal to several Alaskan schools.
Beginning in January, Jennie Kolpak, nutrition services director with the Bethel district, plans to begin using barley as a filler in meat loaf and meatballs, having already tested the proper quantities at home. She's also considering barley chili, pilaf and muffins. She'll use two barley varieties, ground by Camas Country Mill in Junction City, Ore., including the hull-less new variety Streaker developed by Hayes' brother, Oregon State University barley breeder Patrick Hayes.
Kolpak believes the database is a critical tool for school meal programs, and including barley recipes will pay dividends for the industry. Though she sometimes makes her own revisions to the database recipes, she noted they're created for the proper scale, designed for industrial equipment and include information about how dishes meet dietary standards.