For eight years, registered dietitian nutritionist Garrett Berdan worked in the Pacific Northwest as a consultant for child nutrition programs. During that time, and inspired by former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, Berdan worked with child nutrition professionals, providing culinary training and education, recipe development and technical assistance to shape school meals.
“I felt most welcomed into the fold when I was invited to be recognized as a Champion of Change by the Obama White House in 2011 for my volunteer work with Chefs Move to Schools,” Berdan says. “Through this recognition, and a meeting with [White House chef] Sam Kass and [Under Secretary of Agriculture] Kevin Concannon in Washington, D.C., I realized the potential to make a change was great.”
A few years later, the Culinary Institute of America, Berdan’s culinary alma mater, launched the Healthy Kids Collaborative initiative to support school nutrition programs. “I am happy to be involved with this national collaborative leadership initiative in which we work to enhance the culinary culture of school meal programs,” Berdan says.
In 2018, Berdan accepted the role of nutrition services supervisor at Spokane Public Schools to shape menus for the district. “As a consultant, I was able to reach school cooks across the country and influence the direction of meal program menus,” he recalls. “But working directly in a school system for nutrition services is the ultimate way to make positive changes in the way public school children are nourished.”
Berdan is able to show ways school meals can be enhanced. “Nutrition, food and hospitality have the potential to work in harmony to serve our nation’s students,” he says. “Working hard with attention to detail on how we present food to our customers can result in high-quality meals and dining experiences.”
Berdan describes school nutrition as “the perfect line of work for dietitians,” one that brings together aspects of health, diet and food. “The time period in grades K–12 is an opportunity to help young people develop good eating habits for life,” he says. “Those of us in child nutrition can work together to provide great quality meals and exceed the expectations of our customers, all while nourishing bodies and minds of the next generation.”