In honor of National Farm to School Month, the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and partners launched a series of culinary training videos for school cafeteria staff on Oct. 1 titled “Chop! Chop! Culinary Skills for Wisconsin-Grown Produce in School Meals.”

The five videos are designed to help train school nutrition staff how to work with Wisconsin-grown fruits and vegetables and incorporate them into school meal programs, with the goal of getting more local produce into public schools.

Cynthia Holt of CESA Nutrition Purchasing (left) and Vanessa Herald of CIAS (right) thank project partners and premiere the Chop! Chop! videos at the kick-off party.

“We plan to share these videos broadly throughout the state via our partners, at trainings and conferences, via social media and newsletters,” says Vanessa Herald, CIAS’ farm to school outreach specialist.

Chop! Chop! partners held a kick-off party on Sept 22 to celebrate the completion of the project—and to take a sneak peek at the videos.

Herald, who has been organizing the effort with CESA Nutrition Purchasing, shared the following synopsis of the event:

It was a huge success. There were over fifty guests in attendance, representing every possible sector of farm to school. We had representatives from state agencies, non-profits, local organizations, local farms, schools, CESA, graduate students, CIAS staff and more. It was a genuine celebration of a year-long grant project, and everyone was thrilled to watch the video snippets. It was a true celebration of the partnerships and collaborative work that make Wisconsin Farm to School a success, and there was genuine networking and relationship building throughout the night.

The highlight of the night was the video preview. We showed the sizzle reel, a portion of the culinary skills training featuring hosts Susan Peterman and Terese Allen demonstrating the use of leafy green vegetables, and a montage of the conversations between school nutrition directors and farmers. The last was the highlight of the night. Everyone was moved by the success stories of growers and school nutrition professionals who are making farm to school happen for healthy kids and healthy communities.

View the sizzle reel:

Three training videos are available online, with three more slated for release during the early weeks of October.

Five families of vegetables/fruits are featured in the series, one per video: dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach, romaine and chard); winter squash; root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes); brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage); and tomatoes and bell peppers. A sixth video highlights whole grains. Each video includes an introduction to the crop; culinary skills needed to prepare it; suggestions for how to incorporate it into the school menu; and nutrition information.

For many school nutrition staff, there will be some familiar faces in the videos. Therese Allen, Wisconsin-based food writer, helps narrate the videos, as does Susan Peterman, respected nutrition consultant and former Middleton-Cross Plains School District nutrition director. The videos also include Wisconsin school food service directors and specialty crop producers.

In addition to CIAS, project partners include: CESA Nutrition Purchasing, Wisconsin Farm to School, DPI, DATCP and SNA-WI.

For more information about the project, visit