Special diets and servant hearts: Shelterwood’s kitchen

Like all of life at Shelterwood, meal times are centered on relationships. Every day, students here have breakfast and lunch all together followed by separate dinners for girls and boys. Savannah Morgan, Shelterwood’s interim food service director, says that the dining hall offers one more opportunity for staff to make students feel seen and cared for. 

“It’s a huge deal when you have an individual passing you a plate who knows you by name,” says Savannah. “My team strives to know the students, and especially the kids who are on our special diet program. To be handed a plate that is specifically made for them—it provides them a sense of security.” 

This kind of personal investment is part of Savannah’s history at Shelterwood. She just stepped into the interim food service director role from the kitchen manager position and was a direct-care staff member in the girls’ house before that. 

“What you put in is what you put out,” Savannah says. “For my team, we try to always represent a servant’s heart in all we do.” 

Unique teens, unique diets
That servant attitude applies to the students and staff who have unique dietary needs. The kitchen accommodates all medically required diets, including gluten-free, dairy-free, Whole 30 compliant and more. Shelterwood recently formed a Special Diet Committee to bring together staff members to brainstorm creative ways to meet the nutritional needs of its residents. 

Two weeks ago, one of those new solutions went into effect: A new “Raw Bar” offers clean protein choices alongside fresh vegetables and other clean-eating options, like hummus, chickpeas and sunflower seeds. The bar’s spring-roll station provides a new way to wrap up raw veggies and help kids on special diets self-monitor their food choices. 

In addition to doctor-prescribed diets, Shelterwood’s Brain Balance program also recommends healthy nutrition guidelines. The kitchen works with the program to make sure students have choices to support their other goals.  

“It really is holistic,” says Savannah. “A student who is getting good nutrients at a meal is going to have higher energy throughout the day and a better ability to focus in the classroom.”

Lifelong healthy habits
Shelterwood’s kitchen cycles menus every three months based on what’s in season. 

“Our summer menu cycle incorporates those fresh veggies and fruits that are in season, and in winter we go more toward squash and zucchini,” says Savannah. 

Some of that produce is sourced from farms near Shelterwood. This month, they were able to feature blackberries from two different local growers and ask students and staff to compare the berries. Local sourcing gives the kitchen an opportunity to teach students about making informed nutrition choices in the future. 

“It helps them see that getting fresh produce is possible, and it also empowers them to know they have the ability to see if something tastes good,” Savannah says. “Healthy things can taste good, especially if they are fresh!”

Another more direct education component is the kitchen’s student worker program. Students can apply to work up to four shifts a week, where they can learn new skill sets and earn food handler permits, which can help them find food-service jobs after leaving Shelterwood. 

Savannah’s goals for Shelterwood’s kitchen include expanding the farm-to-table initiative and continuing to offer more clean-eating options—all in service of helping students establish lifelong healthy eating habits.  

Want to get a taste of Shelterwood at home? Try two of their most popular recipes: Chicken Tikka Masala and Strawberry Spinach Salad. 

Chicken Tikka Masala

Ingredients
1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons fresh ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions
Prep
 30 m
Cook
 50 m
Ready In 
2 h 20 m

In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Preheat a grill for high heat. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side. 

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Ingredients
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced onion
10 ounces fresh spinach – rinsed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
1 quart strawberries – cleaned, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered

Directions
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and onion. Cover, and chill for one hour. 

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Have questions about how nutrition can help your teen thrive at Shelterwood? Talk to one of our admissions counselors.

Posted in School Activities