Jicama: It’s what’s for lunch

Chef     tries to interest some doubtful elementary students into trying the Jicama Kale Salad.
Chef Lenhardt tries to interest some hesitant Pittsfield Elementary students into tasting  Jicama Kale Salad. Photos by Jo Mathis.


By Jo Mathis
AAPS District News Editor

If your idea of school lunch is sloppy joes, canned applesauce and potato chips, meet the Kale & Jicama Salad.

It’s yet another way Chartwells at Ann Arbor Public Schools is making lunch time a healthy break for students.

Under the “Chef 2 School” program, district chef Shawn Lenhardt recently visited four AAPS elementaries to help educate students about sound eating habits and food preparation, and offer a nutritious new dish that may end up on the menu— depending on students’ reaction.

Lenhardt, set up a table with samples of a possible new menu item, Kale & Jicama Salad, and invited kids to sample the salad before voting thumbs up or down.

Most of the kids had never heard of jicama, though many are accustomed to kale.

“It’s kind of surprising that kids like kale, but we have a lot of people in the community who are educating the youth, which is nice,” said Lenhardt.

The other goal of the “Chef 2 School” program is to give students nutrition education to equip them for a lifetime of eating well, said Heather Holland, Chartwell’s director of dining services for AAPS.

“We love getting students to try new, healthy flavors and use student feedback to help us develop menus which students will enjoy,” she said.

Back in November, students taste tested Curry Chicken Salad, which is now an entree option every Friday on the elementary menu.

Lenhardt said he wants to introduce students to new ingredients, and show them and their parents how easy it is to eat with nutrition in mind.

“As I hand over the recipe (for Kale & Jicama Salad) to the adults, I hear, `That’s it? That’s all it takes to make that?’” he said. “There’s a lot of confusion out there. People are intimidated by food and how to prepare it and so they stick to their old stand-bys, or they hope somebody else does it. Getting kids excited about healthy, different food is our goal.”

Lenhardt is happy to share the recipe here:

Kale & Jicama Salad

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

4 ounces kale

2 ounces jicama

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pinch pepper

2 ounces mandarin oranges

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Pinch salt

  1. Place sesame seeds in a dry skillet and toast the seeds over medium low heat. Slow roast without burning but until brown, stirring often. Let cool and set aside.
  2. Wash kale leaves and slice very thinly and place in a bowl with the sliced jicama. Add the mandarin oranges to the bowl. Toss with salt, black pepper, lemon juice and oil. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds as a garnish.


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1 Comment

  1. What a wonderful program. I am proud of our schools for taking the initiative to make our school lunches healthier and more fun. Kids love to have ownership of their food and this sort of taste-testing allows them to feel as though they have a say and can make “grown up” eating choices. Thank you for helping to make tasty and nutritious food more accessible to our families!

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