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The Changing Face of School Lunch…Colorado Style

By Chef Jason K. Morse, CEC

We are onto something in Colorado…It’s called Change. Rapid and Effective Change.jason

We started our journey as a school district about four years ago with some small but impactful changes like salad bars, whole grains and lower fat foods. Change is a necessary part of our lives. Pushback is a resistance to change. So how did we overcome those opportunities?

See what we did there? We don’t call them hurdles, obstacles or challenges. We call them opportunities. They are, after all, opportunities to make a difference in the lives of our 62,000 students and their families.

Upon my arrival in the school district almost 2 years ago, fresh off a White House Visit and the launch of the “Chefs Move to Schools” Initiative, I knew we had a good thing in the Douglas County School District. Our Team. Our team is comprised of 300 very dedicated, talented culinary professionals.

So how did we effect change in a large operation?

  • First we asked. What can our team do differently to support our entire team and adjust our program to be the best we can be?
  • Then we planned. Our research started with Chef Demos, a powerful tool. We went into our schools, into the cafeterias and offered samples of food to our students and staff. This gave us not only the opportunity to chat with the students and find out what they liked and expected, it gave us the chance to work with the culinary teams who work in the schools.
  • And we listened. What concerns did the culinary teams have? What could we do to help them? SO what did they tell us? They said powerful things like: we need accurate recipes; the district should stop changing products so often; YOU guys need to listen to what our kids like and don’t like.
  • Things started to change. Did we want the culinary teams to buy in? NO, we didn’t want them to follow our lead and our ideas. We wanted to give them the space to take the lead and implement their own ideas to help create change.

That was it, we had a plan: Work with our staff, get our backyard cleaned up, sample food to the students and communicate more. Seems easy enough, right? Well, those are HUGE tasks. And, today, in Douglas County School District…we are cooking.

As always, I leave you with this, “Fear of failure is what fuels me, keeps me on edge and sharp. I’m not as good when I’m comfortable.” — Alex Rodriguez.

Jason Morse Executive Chef, Douglas County School District, Castle Rock, CO

As executive chef of a 65,000-student school district, Jason brings more than good food to schools! He’s an enthusiastic ambassador for quality food made with the highest quality ingredients, using traditional cooking techniques. “My goals,” the Chef says, “are to create a food-driven atmosphere that engages our young customers in the art and practice of eating. And to develop, lead and mentor my team to become the best culinarians possible.” As an active member of the American Culinary Federation, Jason has received many commendations and was invited to serve on First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools/White House “Lets Move” Initiative.


Posted in: Blog, Dynamo Digest