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OUSD Food Hero: Donnie Barclift

Donnie Barclift Nutrition Services’ Field Supervisor Donnie Barclift isn’t waiting for The Central Kitchen to open to begin cooking up new ideas for meals at OUSD’s 86 schools.

 

Inspired by television food shows and the improved national standards for school meals, Barclift spends a lot of time figuring out how to get the most nutrition into the 7,200 breakfasts, 21,200 lunches, 8,400 snacks and 500 suppers that are served across the district each day.

 

“I learned that what kids eat affects their mood and their ability to learn in the classroom,” said the father of five who lives in Stockton, California. “I want these kids to be better, to not have to get nutrition from vitamin drinks.”

 

A former army cook from North Carolina, Donnie knows exactly what students who live in neighborhoods dominated by liquor stores and fast-food restaurants face, because he’s been there himself. “You see the junk that was served,” he remembered. “I wouldn’t eat there. It wasn’t healthy, it wasn’t very good.”

 

Aware that many students get half of their caloric intake from school meals, Donnie is committed to serving the healthiest and best tasting food possible. He even enlists the students’ help by hosting monthly taste tests to get their input (See Taste the Flavor on page 13). Recent successes were a spinach salad with feta cheese, cranberries and raisins with a vinaigrette dressing, and whole grain tortilla chips served with salsa or hummus. Another well received meal was baked fish served on a bed of kale atop a whole grain pita garnished with tomatoes, chili, onion and celery.

 

The best meals, Barclift says, include “dark, green, leafy vegetables any way you can serve them: raw or steamed.” Those same greens are on his mind as he looks forward to the planned small farm on The Center’s grounds for a farm-to-table approach to cooking.

 

OUSD’s efforts to use local, seasonal ingredients for meals continues to excite Donnie as well. He joined OUSD in 2008 and is here for the long haul. “My goal is to influence a whole generation of young people to eat whole and healthy foods.”