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A Seussical Sensation

In the August issue of School Nutrition, author Cecily Walters collected ideas from operators about using traditional and unconventional holidays as the basis of creative cafeteria celebrations. One popular promotion conducted at many schools around the country is the birth anniversary of celebrated children’s book author Dr. Seuss. Observance of his birthday (March 2) often is held in combination with the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day.

Sandy Helsel, school nutrition coordinator for Manteca (Calif.) Unified School District, offered details about how her cafeteria teams use this occasion as the foundation for a fun promotion, featuring infamous Green Eggs and Ham on the menu.

Do you target your operation’s Dr. Seuss’ birthday promotion at a certain age group?
Students in grades K-3 are invited to participate.

How long in advance do you start planning for the promotion?
Most of the food items are in our warehouse or at our disposal within a week’s notice. Bulk scrambled eggs and turkey ham are USDA Foods items. I always make sure to order a few cases each year just for this event. In February, we send an e-mail to all of the schools, asking who would like to participate and giving them a deadline to let us know so that we can order our final items and give our staff the estimated counts.

Do all schools in the district conduct the promotion on the same day?
We give them one week of dates to choose from so they are not all holding the promotion on the same day, [which would make it difficult for our team]. The most we schedule is four in one day.

What’s the secret to knowing how much green food coloring to use for the Green Eggs and Ham? (See this recipe on page 62 of “Celebrate Good Times” in the print and digital versions of the August 2013 issue.)
We use about 1 oz. of green color, because the staff likes to have it bright green.

Are there any other details or special touches included in the celebration?
The principals at the participating schools generally read Green Eggs and Ham to the students as they eat their Green Eggs and Ham. We set up the tables with Dr. Seuss placemats and bookmarks that we have made.

What has the response been to this promotion?
We served more than 5,000 breakfasts this year for this promotion. Kids giggle and say “Ooh” and “Aah” when we serve the bright green eggs. Site administrators and teachers really get into it and make it a fun time for the students. It is a nice event where we can partner with teachers for a learning and memory event.

Do you have any other tips to share with fellow school nutrition operators who might want to put on their own Dr. Seuss’ birthday promotion?
Steamtable pan liners are a lifesaver when cleaning up the scrambled eggs. We count this as a reimbursable meal.