Hi i'm a daycare cook in Ontario Canada. I hope to get some new ideas here and hopefully share tips and tricks with other Cooks/chefs that cook for large groups of children.
Daycare cook in Canada :)
Hi and welcome!
Before I had my own kids I worked with special needs kids and alot of them I would find in the daycare setting. I have my BA in ECE and I remember well the food and nutrition aspect of the course.
I remember one daycare I had to go to for a few of my cases that just appalled me when it came to food. They were using powdered potatoes and powdered milk and apparently the city and province approved it. I suspect that the inspectors weren't aware that they were using powder because that is the only daycare I had to visit that had such terrible food. Best daycare food was at St Stephen's Community House in TO.. this is going back twenty some odd years but they were in the Kensington market area and their food was the absolute best I have ever experienced.
Beefaroni is a great kid pleaser. I did home daycare when my kids were growing up and this was a staple of our lunch menu. To serve four you need to brown one pound of lean ground beef with some diced onions, red and green peppers and minced garlic. Drain the fat and then put it in a soup pot with one 700ml can of diced tomatoes and one 700 ml can of ground tomatoes. Add salt to taste and season it generously with basil, Italian seasoning and oregano. Simmer for at least one hour. Cook four cups of raw macaroni to package directions. Grate lots of mozzarella cheese. In a baking dish layer sauce, pasta and cheese until dish is nearly full. Pour a little sauce over the top and sprinkle some cheese. Bake at 350F until cheese is melted and bubbly. This makes alot and serves four with leftovers. You can adjust it as you need to be able to feed your daycare. I serve this with steamed peas and carrots and either a mixed green or caesar salad.
The thing with daycare cooking is that the quality of what you have to work with varies from centre to centre. I have my BA in ECE and part of our course was food and nutrition. The expectation for a daycare menu (well at least here in Ontario) is that the four food groups are well represented in each meal and then supported by two snacks. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. There are daycare centres that are run by non profit organizations and they tend to have a better budget for food and wil use higher quality ingredients, and then there are centres that are for profit and most (not all) of them cut corners wherever they can and food is the first corner they seem to cut.
I worked at a non proft centre I had the special needs (behavioural disorders) group at the centre I worked and and I found that incorporating cooking into my program was a good way to introduce new foods to the kids and to also show them that not all carrots (or whatever the dislike of the week was) are gross and they can actually taste good and be fun to eat.
One favourite meal at the centre I was it is super simple to make.. it was a warmish salad of drained flaked tuna, elbow pasta and chick peas with chives. It was served with vegetables and dip and fresh sliced pineapple for dessert. Our cook would make homemade tomato soup every Friday using the leftover tomatoes in the box and she would freeze it for a later use. Sometimes we had tomato soup on the menu for lunch but mostly how she served it was as a sauce for fish sticks. She would do fish sticks, rice, vegetables and salad as the main at least twice a month and we'd have it and it would come with her soup on the side for us to pour over the fish sticks and rice. It was actually very good and I think we never had leftovers on those days. She'd serve it with her meatloaf too which was out of this world. Mildly seasoned chili with rice and salad was also very popular. The kids could have grated cheese on top of their chili if they wanted it but that was optional as milk was what they were given to drink for lunch.
I did alot of cooking with my group on my own as well. Once a week we'd make as a group either our lunch or one of our snacks. On Fridays it was movie afternoon and we made popcorn and homemade lemonade after their afternoon outside playtime for them to enjoy during the movie. Making pizza with 15 kids each with their own degree of behavioural disorder is no small feat but I'd make a morning of it. After morning snack we'd have circle and I'd tell them the plan then we'd sing some songs while my assistants made sure they used the loo and got ready to go. Then we'd go to the bakery and buy the dough (after a tour that I had pre-booked) and on the way back to daycare we'd stop at the grocery store and decide what we want on our pizza and then buy it. Sometimes I treated them if I had extra petty cash and we'd get ice cream and some fruit for fruit sundaes for dessert but not every time. One time I suggested ice cream and one of the kids had asked if we could make a big salad instead and everyone agreed so we made salad. I did alot of the pre-cutting of the vegetables and I was able to find some good plastic knives at The Bay I think it was so we reused those and the kids cut their veggies and fruit using them.
I couldn't agree with you more Leeniek. The previous daycare I worked at was not-for-profit and we had wonderful food and variety. The one I'm employed at now is for profit and the food is very limited. There is a menu change coming soon, I both dreading it and looking forward to it... hopefully they will accept some of my suggestions, but not holding my breath.
Cori I still can see the closet in the cockrach infested building that the for profit daycare I had to deal with stored their food. I hope there were no roaches in the closet but the building had a problem with them. The daycare itself had roach issues and they were fumigated regularly but the apartment building was a dive. The daycare itself was a bunch of converted apartments on the main floor and one of them had the original apartment kitchen that served as the daycare kitchen. I have no idea how public heath approved the place to begin with but it was in the late 1980s that I had experience with them and alot has changed since then when it comes to daycare standards. At the time they had a pretty sad menu.. lots of nice names like "cowboy casserole" aka weiners and beans that any parent would be ok to see but visit at lunchtime and it's a different story. Premade, powdered and instant foods were their staple items in their menus and they used powdered juice crystals as well as powdered milk. I will admit that in my home kitchen I have a bag of powdered milk that I use for baking as alot of the recipes I use call for it. But will I ever serve it to drink or on cereal? No. Yes it does contain the same nurtients that the milk I buy in the 4L bags does but.. it does not have the same taste or texture. For their spaghetti for example they would add cooked ground beef to canned spaghetti. YUCK. The kids seemed to eat it but when you're hungry there's not much choice.