Madison County Food Service Director Scott Anderson is good at thinking outside of the box.
He continues to come up with new and creative ways to make eating -- and learning about where one's food comes from -- much more fun. In fact, Anderson said he is always planning new ideas six months to a year in the future. And that's because he is dedicated to making sure he provides Madison County with the best food he can.
One of his most recent ideas has finally started to come to fruition after the delivery of five brand new FreshCor grow cabinets from Zink Foodservice. Anderson said he was in conversation with the company when he mentioned he was having trouble finding grow cabinets for what he wanted to use them for. That's when Zink stepped in and offered to build him just what he needed.
"They said, 'We can build those for you, we can do that.' So they started designing, and we started talking, and they built this cabinet called FreshCor," Anderson said.
Anderson had the option of getting a single, double or triple stack of the FreshCor units, of which he chose the triple. He had in mind a vision of what he wanted to do with them, too.
For each elementary school, Anderson wants to pair a teacher (or teachers) with a FreshCor unit to use a learning device, bringing in local farmers to explain how they grow things and hopefully inspire students to start their own garden.
Since one triple stack can't grow enough food to feed the entire school, Anderson said they will focus on growing herbs like basil, thyme and oregano that they can use in different recipes, such as homemade spaghetti or salsa.
"That's the plan, is to teach kids a little bit, because I believe we're all educators. We are teaching kids where food comes from, how to grow it and maybe encourage them to do it at home," Anderson said.
One of the neat things about the FreshCor unit is that Madison County currently holds the only models of its kind in the world. While five of the grow cabinets have already been delivered, Anderson expects to have the rest by the end of the year.
And because Anderson has helped Zink with the concept of the grow cabinets, they received them at a cheaper price than what is in the market for a similar item.
But the smaller price tag also has to do with Anderson's excellent ability to be a good steward of the money he is given in the school's budget.
"While we provide a high quality product, food that kids want to eat, we know where to cut corners, we know what we can do to save money so we're not wasting," Anderson said. "We can use that money to provide for these cabinets."
Anderson said he also relies on partnerships in the community to make things possible. Not only does he work with local farmers, but he is regularly being honored by Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles for the outstanding work being done through Anderson's feeding programs.
During an annual Kentucky School Nutrition Association awards ceremony, Anderson said, every one of the schools in Madison County, except one, received either a silver, bronze or gold level award of excellence for their outstanding performance during the previous year.
Anderson said very few schools in the state receive the distinction, let alone almost every school in a county, given the huge list of criteria they have to meet.
"I'm very proud of our schools and the hard work they put in," Anderson said.
To check out what is new with food service, or to find a summer feeding stop, visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/guardiansofnutritionmc.
Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.