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Pellston Public Schools Enlists Expertise from Nathan Bates for School Lunch Program
As published in Petoskey News Review — February 22, 2021

PELLSTON — Pellston Public Schools is seeking a chef candidate to create fresh and tasty food options for students district-wide.

Superintendent Stephen Seelye said an opportunity to receive a three-year grant will allow the district to hire a professional chef to enhance its food service program with homemade meals, fresh, locally sourced ingredients and new dishes.

The chef will work under the tutelage of chef Nathan Bates, who is known for his creative breakfasts and lunches served to students in Boyne Falls Public School.

“Anyone who has had a chance to enjoy the meals by Chef Nathan knows they are amazing, and very nutritious,” Seelye said. “This is an incredible opportunity for Pellston to grow and enhance our food service program and we are really excited.”

The idea for the new position came from community member, Mary Rapin, through many conversations she had with food service director Sherry Sedore and other staff and students over the years. She pursued and secured funding through the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation from a donor-advised fund that will cover the new chef’s training and salary for a period of three years.

“Unfortunately, the government funding provided to our public schools for food service today is not enough to pay staff a fair living wage and to give students a nutritious freshly made meal. If we have decided as a country that we want to feed our public school children, then we owe it to them to provide food that will help them succeed in the classroom,” Rapin said.

Sedore said she is looking forward to collaborating with the new chef and Bates for the benefit of the district’s students and staff who depend on the meal program each day. Pellston’s kitchens also turn out meals for nearby Alanson Public Schools students.

“Nathan has made a site visit to look at our kitchen and has met with Sherry to develop a job posting. He’ll help with recruitment of candidates and assist in the interview process,” Seelye said.

Sedore will continue to serve in her role as supervisor to the position. The job description for the chef position can be found at www.pellstonschools.org.

Once hired, the new chef will be trained for a period of time at Boyne Falls school with Bates, who will remain on as a paid consultant for a year, with funding from the grant.

“The role of the new chef will be developing, but we envision them spending time in each kitchen assisting in training our current staff,” Seelye said. “Batch cooking will take place where they are producing scratch meals such as homemade marinara sauce to later be served in all of our kitchens. Another example would be salad dressings — Chef Nathan does not serve any store-bought salad dressings, they are all made from scratch, and the same can be said for his soups.”

Seelye said he envisions the chef growing the position to begin a culinary program through Career and Technical Education programming. Currently culinary programs are offered in Petoskey and Boyne City high schools.

“Food that is cared for tells the student that they, too, are cared for,” said Bates. “This is an exciting chance to train and retain a chef who will help the current food service team reach the district’s common goals around food and nutrition.”

Interested candidates may contact Chef Nathan Bates for information about the position at nathan@eatnicely.org

Deadline for applying is 3 p.m. on March 12, 2021.
From Berkeley to Boyne Falls: Measuring Alice Waters' Farm to School Impact | Groundwork Center
Chef Nathan Bates and Alice Waters

Farm to school champion and celebrity chef Alice Waters visited Boyne Falls Public School in Charlevoix County on Friday, Sept. 22, to witness firsthand how food service director and chef Nathan Bates is using locally-sourced produce in the cafeteria and how Boyne Falls is promoting local food in the curriculum. Shortly before Waters arrived, a third-grade student approached FoodCorps service member Lindsay Hall and said, "Miss Lindsay, I think you're going to really like Miss Alice Waters because she likes eating healthy too!"

Sometimes kids articulate things just right.

Waters has been on something of a barnstorming tour of northern Michigan this past week to celebrate the local food renaissance happening in our restaurants, schools and dining rooms. On Sunday, Sept. 24, she'll appear at the National Writers Series in Traverse City to promote her new memoir, Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook; on Wednesday, Sept. 20, she attended a showing of The Baker's Wife (one of her favorite films) at The State Theatre; and she has dined at Traverse City restaurants participating in Local Harvest Restaurant Series, which features menu items that are 100 percent locally sourced or recipes from one of Waters’ cookbooks.

When Alice Waters walks down Front Street, she can duck into almost any restaurant, scan its menu for locally-sourced, organic ingredients, and measure her impact on contemporary American cuisine. That’s how far the movement has reached since she founded Chez Panisse in 1971. She could also visit countless school cafeterias in the region and smile as children learn about, and eat, locally sourced fruits, vegetables and legumes grown right here in northern Michigan. Thanks in part to her, farm to school is alive and well in public schools from Leland to Muskegon, from Boyne Falls to Frankfort. Crucially, the 10 Cents state incentive program spearheaded by the Groundwork Center has received bipartisan support in the Michigan legislature, as lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have recognized the benefit not just of healthy students but also of expanding the market for local farmers, encouraging them to stay on their land and continue growing a diverse array of crops.

When she visited Boyne Falls on Friday, Waters saw how much her work has impacted Chef Nathan Bates and his staff. This past July, Bates joined a team of northern Michiganders on a visit to Berkeley, Calif., to participate in the second annual Edible Schoolyard Academy Intensive, a three-day crash course in best practices for farm to school programs from around the globe.
The Edible Schoolyard campus at Martin Luther King Jr. middle school in Berkeley is an inspirational site, where students participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting and preparing nutritious, seasonal produce during the academic day and in after-school classes. Through hands-on experience in the kitchen and gardens, students foster a deeper appreciation of how the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well-being of our school community.
Groundwork Center food & farming program director Meghan McDermott and local food policy specialist Jennifer Schaap, along with FoodCorps service member Lindsay Hall joined Chef Nathan and Boyne Falls business manager Lori Herman got to travel outside their rural Michigan communities and see Waters' vision firsthand, along with chef Ann Cooper’s nuts-and-bolts approach to implementation. They returned home with an action plan geared to (borrowing from a Waters’ quote) literally, bring students “back to their senses”.

Boyne Falls Public Schools was so inspired by Waters' work that this 2017-18 school year it introduced real silverware and serviceware, flowers in vases on tables, food waste management with the full cycle in mind, and reduced sugar in school lunches.

“My takeaway was a deep resolve to improve the food service quality and experience for our kids in the cafeteria,” Bates wrote to McDermott following the Berkeley trip. “From recipes, procedures to décor. All around improvements could be made. Additionally, I’m committed to improving our cafeteria recycling. ... I am in the process of sourcing some better proteins to feed our kids.”

“Attending the Edible Schoolyard Training really helped to put things into perspective for me,” said Hall. “The goals my team (and I) have been working toward throughout my FoodCorps service term seem a lot more probable now that I’ve seen another program tackle and accomplish similar goals. To me, this is extremely valuable because I learn best through experience and hands on learning. As a result of attending this training, I plan to implement more hands-on, cooking lessons and to establish a more defined outdoor education environment. These are two key areas I saw at the Edible Schoolyard that helped to create interest, passion and a culture of health within the students.”

“Boyne Falls had already formed the foundations of a robust farm to school program before attending the Edible Schoolyard Intensive,” Hall added, “but that training really fueled the big picture, systems change action that happened this year. I was amazed how quickly Chef Nathan and his team implemented changes, and know that they'll continue to move forward because of the immense passion I've seen.”

“Beauty is the language of care,” the northern Michigan contingent heard Alice Waters say at the Edible Schoolyard training. Upon entering the cafeteria at Boyne Falls, visitors now see local, fresh food served to students, and care taken about the surroundings, and know that the children are cared for, in body, mind and soul.
Kristin & Nathan Bates Recognized for Community Service
Boyne Falls Schools Shine During MDE Site Visit | Charlevoix County News | March 19, 2019
Boyne Falls Public School students and staff rolled out the kid-painted, green-and-white school banner to warmly welcome a representative from the Michigan Department of Education on March 4 as part of MDE's mission to visit every public school district throughout the state. The directive came two years ago from Brian Whiston, the late State Superintendent of Public Instruction, as part of his "Top 10 in 10" initiative. Whiston instructed MDE Department Directors to visit at least 10 districts a year of the state's approx. 900 districts, Intermediate School Districts and Public School Academies. Since Whiston's unexpected passing last year, his initiative has been carried on by his colleagues, including Jan Weckstein, Assistant Director of Special Education, who chose to visit Boyne Falls earlier this week. "These visitations came about (to help MDE) improve customer service for our local education agencies. The includes highlighting and celebrating the great things happening in our local schools and finding out what the MDE can do for our local districts," Weckstein said. Weckstein was impressed with what she called many "firsts" at Boyne Falls among her district tours – such as the farm-to-table food program – as she toured with Superintendent and Principal of five years, Cynthia Pineda, and Student Success Advisor, Brooke Fenske. Pineda and Fenske spent several hours with Weckstein sharing many points of pride that filled the morning and early afternoon. "What impressed me the most was the dedication and commitment from the superintendent, staff, students, families and community members. I was wowed with the numerous innovative programs and services taking place in all facets of education," Weckstein said. "There is a theme of high expectations for students, data-informed and data-driven practices, building incredible relationships and finding ways to extend opportunities for students and families beyond traditional school pours. Weckstein also shared her enthusiasm for seeing children throughout the school engaged in classroom activities in a peaceful environment that includes essential oil diffusers, sensory rooms and quiet corners intended to provide students with options for dealing with emotional and social pressures. "The focus in Boyne Falls is truly on the 'whole child,' and there are numerous, innovative things in place in the district and every classroom that is making that happen," she said. "There is a family feel in the building, one of 'we are all in this together.'" From the start of the tour, the family atmosphere is one point that Pineda emphasized in this district of approx. 200 students. All K-12 grades are housed in one building: elementary, middle and high school are located in separate wings. There is a central gym, media center, and cafeteria. Teachers have longevity ; several have been with the district for more than 30 years, many more for 20+. "I tell my staff that we are small enough that there is no reason that each of our families shouldn't get our personal attention," Pineda said. Because of the emphasis MDE staff have placed on learning about the specific needs of districts during these statewide tours, Pineda noted two areas where MDE could provide assistance to Boyne Falls: food program flexibility for families and universal pre-school funding for 3-year-olds. Pineda explained that with the tough winter this year, and the predictability of snow days ahead of time due to better forecasting, Boyne Falls would like the ability to send food home with students in need the day before they anticipate a school closure. Many families really on the school for two meals a day for their children; 65 percent of families here quality for free or reduced lunch. School closures mean some children might go hungry. Currently, the state requires that children "congregate" and consume food in communal areas to receive funding, preventing districts like Boyne Falls from packaging meals to send home. " We want to make a plea to the state to let us do this for our families," Pineda said. This was one of the "first" such requests for Weckstein, who was clearly touched by the commitment to families. "Typically I hear about funding, but I have not heard a request like this before," she told Pineda. When it comes to state funding of preschool, Pineda said that universal preschool for 3-year-olds would be another wish-list item. When she started in the superintendent role, Pineda and the Board of Education established the district's first preschool program for 3 and 4 year olds, which has continued to grow as it fills a need in the working-class community. The tuition-based, five-star rated program has helped these youngsters enter kindergarten more prepared, Pineda said. It is also helping the district retain families and attract new ones. A universally funded program for 3-year-olds would assist more families on tight budget and prepare young ones for their schooling year ahead. Weckstein was also impressed with the district's food service program, which is handled i-house under the leadership of Chef Nathan Bates. On this particular day, and every day, student meal trays include fresh salads and vegetables prepared using different methods and seasonings. "We know that we have a lot of kids who have faced food insecurities, and we know that we need to meet their nutritional needs before we ask them to perform in the classroom. They have to trust us and have confidence in us that we will help them," Pineda said. Under bates guidance, students are also committed to caring for the environment, by using non-disposal utensils, scraping food waste into compost bins, and using glassware for milk (from a large central milk unit, known as "The Cow") or water. "These are great, real life skills to learn," Weckstein noted. "Chef Nathan has worked so hard to build relationships with local farmers, and to build our food program into what it has become – and our students directly benefit," Pineda Weckstein said, "From my Boyne Falls visit, I will take back with me that the focus is truly on the whole child, working collaboratively together, making best-practice decisions and finding ways to make something positive happen for kids and improving student achievement. I took many notes and am excited to share some of the awesome programs in place." "Boyne Falls Public Schools is a warm, inspiring and inviting environment," Weckstein added. "Everyone is working together to keep students on track academically and provide opportunities for the students themselves to be engaged in taking ownership of their own education. Boyne Falls Public Schools should be proud of their focus and the inspiring job they are doing for children and families."
This Wouldn't Happen Without Groundwork
During our annual year-end campaign, please support our team as they work tirelessly to reinstate state funding for 10 Cents a Meal. It puts locally grown produce on lunch plates at schools and money in farm family pockets. Nathan Bates, Food Director at Boyne Falls Public School, sums up the values beautifully in this 22-second spot. Boyne Falls Public School 10 Cents A Meal Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District (TBAISD) Charlevoix-Emmet ISD Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) School Nutrition Association of Michigan DONATE: GroundworkCenter.org/donate