Every Student Deserves Good Nutrition

Beaumont ISD kitchen crew provides great nutrition

Proper nutrition is critically important. After all, nutrition affects both physical and mental development. However, food insecurity endangers many students. As a result, the sole reliable food source for many is at school. For example, in a recent press releaseThe Education Trust stated:
Decades of research and data point to school nutrition programs as critical to help children reach their full academic potential. Adequate school nutrition is linked to improved literacy and math scores, improved cognitive function, reduced absenteeism, and long-term positive educational outcomes.

Winston supports students. For example, we’ve partnered with the School Nutrition Foundation. Certainly, the majority of our support is in the form of the Winston Equipment Grant.

The Winston Equipment Grant

In fact, every year Winston donates up to $100,000 in CVap equipment to a deserving school district. Naturally, to be above board, Winston doesn’t select the recipient. Accordingly, the SNF vets applications. Ultimately, SNF chooses the grant recipient.

Beaumont Independent School District in Beaumont, Texas received the 2020 grant. Tiffany Eckenrod, Beaumont’s Director of Child Nutrition, submitted a powerful video detailing her team’s challenges. In fact, the grant replaced broken or obsolete equipment. As a result, the quality and quantity of food in Beaumont have improved.

Take a look at some other schools that received the grant. After all, it’s our honor to be active proponents of student nutrition.

Rockin’ Alamo City at the SNA ANC

sna cabinet

SNA’s Annual National Conference and Exhibit

San Antonio, Texas, is the seventh most populated city in the United States and the dry 100 degree days in July are HOT! It was definitely cooler inside the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, but the action and learning was just as hot as the south central Texas days outside.

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) Annual National Conference pulls members and vendors from all across the U.S.. Consequently, it’s likely one of the most fun events you can attend each year as a K-12 professional. We always have a great time and a great theme in the Winston booth.

SNA fun at the Winston booth
bigfoot and tony at sna
sna craziness
playing cups at sna
sna conference
the riverwalk
winston shirts are always popular at sna anc

Naturally, we dressed, played, and had fun with the part!

This may have been one of our most active times at this yearly conference so far. Fans of CVap stopped to learn and have fun.

Everyone enjoyed the Winston “Selfie Station,” nights on the Riverwalk, The Annual Membership, Star Club Breakfast, and so much more.

Honestly, I have about a hundred photos. Consequently, trying to choose which ones to post was not easy! My favorite though, was a shot at the airport as we were all leaving to go home. One of many examples I saw while everyone waited to board their respective flights. Another awesome time at SNA’s ANC with your CVap friends at Winston!

Not These Lunch Ladies!

school nutrition

I was recently scheduled to do a demo on one of our CVap® Retherm Ovens at the Tift County School District in Georgia. I was looking at their menus for that day to see what we would be cooking when I saw the words: NO SCHOOL/PARENT/TEACHER CONFERENCE. A frightening thought entered my mind. I feared that no staff would be there and we would need to reschedule. Actually, my first thought was, YES! No School! A juvenile reflex, I guess. So I sent a note to Kogi, one of the Assistants to the Director, and asked if they would be in that day. “Yes,” she said, “it’s a student holiday, but still a work day.” Awesome, not only will they be in, but I’ll have their complete attention while doing my demo. But, will they be in a bad mood? As it turned out, not these lunch ladies!

The kitchen was humming when I walked in. Everyone was busy cleaning and organizing. The manager gathered her flock around the CVap oven for my demo. And just as I had hoped, they gave their complete attention. They were engaged, asking questions, even smiling. We cooked frozen pizzas on Channel 3 for about 12 minutes. Naturally, they came out great. The ladies ate and we talked, but then they went right back to the deep clean, smiles still on their faces. I was borderline astonished. These ladies were doing the job most people hate (imagine deep cleaning your kitchen and multiply it by ten). But they also have to listen to me, a company gasbag, trying to tell them how to use our oven.

Recognition for a Challenging Job

A little background on what lunchroom staffs do each day. Nationwide, these workers prepare and serve over 30 million lunches and 14 million breakfasts daily. Some even provide meals at night and through the summer for their communities. They greet rambunctious kids with a smile and perhaps the only nourishment they will receive that day. Then they clean and scrub and, for a lot of them, it’s off to the next job. Let’s face it, it’s not the most glamorous in the world and it’s certainly not the highest paying. Many of them have a second occupation and they are most likely the ones cooking and cleaning at home. It’s a thankless job.

It would’ve been so easy for the staff at 8th Street Middle School to mail it in and be crabby, thinking about what they could’ve been doing had they not been at work. But, not today. Not these lunch ladies!

Remember to tell your lunch staff thanks for the delicious food they prepare and all the hard work they do for you each day. Trust me, they will appreciate it more than you know!


Street Tacos for School Lunch!

Street Tacos

When you were a kid in school you probably didn’t give much thought to learning about your future career from the lunchroom. I’d be willing to bet that your school district didn’t have a culinary program either, or street tacos at school. Times have changed.

This is Culinary Specialist Chef Ron Jones with Esteban Gonzales. We are the leaders of the student-driven taco recipe team at Greenville County School District, GCSD.

I recently returned from another stop on the School Nutrition Guru world tour. I’ve got to tell you they just rocked the cafeteria at GCSD’s Mauldin Middle School.

The day started with a visit to GCSD Nutrition offices, where I saw a familiar sight in Director Joe Urban’s office. He’s a true media wiz and grabs pics and videos whenever he can to show the pride he has in this awesome district.

Then we drove to Mauldin Middle to meet the student team that had the winning recipe in the district. I felt fortunate to spend time with them. The team members were Hunter Criswell, Esteban Gonzalez, Joe Urban, and Michael Harmon.

students love street tacos

Students line up to try the street tacos.

Let's Make Street Tacos!

The first thing the team checked were the taco ingredients conversions to school-level preparation. For example, the student design team’s original taco featured red onions pickled in red wine vinegar. The school version switched to white vinegar.

Then came the first taste test by the team. They agreed the tacos needed a replacement tortilla and a change was made and tested once more. Then on to the lunch rush!

Street Tacos for School Lunch

Vicki Thompson is the amazing, energetic Cafeteria Manager at Mauldin Middle. Just ahead of lunch each day she holds a pep rally with her team. It’s incredible to watch. She has a constant smile and she and the staff LOVE their students!

This next part was really cool! Chef Ron grabbed the recipe team members and had them help build a balanced complete tray as it might look when the tacos will be added to the GCSD menu cycle.

Winston is proud to have CVap equipment in the GCSD kitchens!

Word gets around fast when just one kid says “free tacos!” The open hands below didn’t hear about it until they got to their tables with their trays which they promptly left to come back for a sample.

Why not become a friend and fan of Greenville County Schools Food and Nutrition Services Facebook page? You’ll see trends being set and breakthroughs happening. Just recently GCSD made the top ten list on the Food Research and Action Center’s 2016 Scorecard!! It’s not just about School Lunch, read about #schoolbreakfast too!!

You can also watch a short video about Greenville County SC’s newest addition to their lunch menu.

Tasty Ranchero Beans!

Ranchero Beans are yummy school nutrition

With a side dish like  Tantalizing and Tasty Ranchero Beans from a district like Brantley County Schools in Georgia, you can’t go wrong.

There’s been a lot of talk about school nutrition, and what’s being served in cafeterias around the country. The best way to find out what’s being plated in K-12 is to actually go to the schools and have lunch yourself. I work with schools around the U.S., and there is some wonderful food being served, with creative ways of serving!

These healthier options have been putting school foodservice at the forefront of tasty recipes. They’re consistently satisfying one of the most demanding groups of customers there is – kids.

The K-12 market segment food manufacturers have done a marvelous job with reformulating and reinventing a lot of the tasty treats kids love to eat. Add in the scratch cooking that’s being done in many schools and you’ve got some great recipes for healthy well-fed students that get kids ready to learn.

Here’s my challenge to you. Would you try a dynamic, delicious, made-from-scratch school food recipe at your next outdoor cookout?

Ranchero Beans are yummy school nutrition

Ranchero Beans

We took the original bulk ranchero beans recipe from School Nutrition Director Laura Lynn’s Brantley County School District and honed it down for a small family gathering. We’ll share the original and the family-sized versions.

School style:

  • Number of Portions: 43
  • Size of Portions: ½ cup



  • 1  cup -(8 fl oz) water
  • 1 #10 can tomatoes (diced)
  • 2 tsp – low sodium ham base
  • 1  #10 can – /18.5 ct/.5 cup beans (canned, drained, rinsed)
  • 1 cup – frozen diced onions
  • 2 tbsp – Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp – cumin (ground)
  • 1 tbsp – salt
  • ¼ cup – mild banana pepper rings
  • 1 tsp – pepper, black


Pre-heat CVap Retherm Oven by pressing Channel 6.

Place can of tomatoes, drained beans and onions in a 2” deep hotel pan. Add one cup of warm water mixed with the ham base. Add Italian seasoning, cumin, salt and black pepper. Mix well and place pepper rings on top. Once it’s pre-heated, place in the retherm oven and cook for 30 minutes. Then place in holding cabinet with a food temperature of 155°F and a food texture of +10 degrees until ready to serve. Serve students with #8 scoop or ½ spoodle.

Home Style Version


  • 1/2 cup – water
  • 1/4 tsp – low sodium ham base (I used Better Than Bouillon brand)
  • 2 cans – (15.5 oz) unseasoned pinto beans (drained, rinsed)
  • 2 cans – (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup – frozen diced onions (I used Kroger brand)
  • 1/4 tsp – Italian seasoning (I used McCormick brand)
  • 1/8 tsp – salt
  • 1/4 tsp – pepper
  • 1/4 tsp – cumin
  • 6 or 8 – mild banana pepper rings


Mix all of the ingredients together in a half size aluminum hotel pan. Place in a preheated CVap Cook and Hold Oven set to 90+9 for 30 minutes on high yield so it will drop into an automatic hold of 150°F following the heat cycle to warm.

If you don’t have a CVap Cook and Hold Oven at home, you can cook it old school. Combine the ingredients in a gallon pot, reserve the mild banana rings for topping. Heat on medium on stove, covered until warm, then put the banana pepper rings on top for serving.

I served this to friends and family, including my toddler granddaughter Penelope (minus the mild banana pepper rings) and asked them all what they thought.

The adults loved it and Penelope asked for more. Then the big reveal…I told them it was school food!

This made Penelope ready for kindergarten immediately!

Check out this wonderful dish and try it at home. Take heart in knowing that schools are serving great school nutrition like this to your children. Winston’s CVap equipment helps schools serve food that’s top notch.