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New School Breakfast Item: Overnight Oatmeal

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New School Breakfast Item: Overnight Oatmeal
Posted on 05/16/2019
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The Portland Public Schools Food Service Department has developed a new breakfast item: overnight oatmeal.

On Wednesday, May 22, Blueberry Overnight Oatmeal will be served for breakfast at Portland's elementary schools. Superintendent Xavier Botana will be joining students at Ocean Ave Elementary School to enjoy this hearty breakfast.

The idea for overnight oats for was born out of the Food Fuels Learning initiative, a group committed to addressing food insecurity among students. Working with Portland Public Schools staff and community members who are concerned about childhood hunger and the quality of school food, Food Fuels Learning followed the leadership of parents who proposed oatmeal as a menu item.

Food Service Director Jane McLucas worked with Kitchen Manager Lori Beatham to develop a recipe that met USDA nutrition requirements, could be transported from the PPS Central Kitchen to schools across the district, and was appealing to students.

In March, Central Kitchen partnered with Cultivating Community, a local nonprofit that “believes in food justice for all,” to conduct oatmeal taste tests at three elementary schools. The new potential breakfast item was a hit, with over 75 percent of the 761 students who sampled it voting “yes” or “maybe” they would eat it for breakfast.

 One third-grade student exclaimed, “I’ve always voted ‘No, I don’t like it’ on the taste tests, but I’m voting ‘yes’ on this one!”

Based on the positive feedback from taste tests, Central Kitchen scheduled the May 22 all-elementary-school rollout as a next step in introducing this proposed item into the menu on a more consistent basis. This month’s oatmeal will also feature wild Maine blueberries, a Maine Harvest of the Month item.*

“This is an exciting opportunity to highlight both scratch cooking and local Maine products at once,” said McLucas.

Jim Hanna, Executive Director of the Cumberland County Food Security Council, the organization that convenes Food Fuels Learning, is excited about what this menu item means for food insecure children. “With over half of Portland students living in families who qualify for free meals, investments in student nutrition help our children achieve their potential,” he said.

*Maine Harvest of the Month is a campaign promoting the use of seasonally available, local products in schools, institutions and communities. The program highlights a different Maine product each month. It aims to provide students with local and healthy produce, while supporting Maine’s farmers and producers. (https://www.maine.gov/doe/harvestofthemonth)
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