Barley makes the grade in Oregon
A new Oregon school project is set to introduce food barley to a whole new generation of children through a pilot meal program.
Leading the charge to get barley used in U.S. schools is Dayle Hayes—a Billings, MT, registered dietitian who conducted a survey for the Idaho Barley Commission (IBC). The study determined that most schools in the U.S. use very little barley in their lunch pro- grams. Yet the U.S. national school lunch program guidelines encourage the use of healthy foods—such as whole grain products.
Hayes saw an opportunity to promote barley through these meal programs and has since worked to get barley into school cafeterias across the country.
“Schools are an obvious place to introduce barley,” she said. “You can use barley as a cereal and in baked goods. You can use it in place of rice, like in a pilaf. The great thing about barley is it has a mild flavour and a familiar texture.”
The IBC is working with a school district in Eugene, OR, to pilot barley in its meal program with recipes from Oregon State University that meet the specifications to be included in a U.S. Department of Agriculture recipe database used by schools across the country.
Hayes’ brother Patrick, a crop and soil science professor and principal investigator of the Barley Project at Oregon State University in Corvallis, is adamant about the benefits of barley.
“There’s a real push in U.S. schools to get more whole grains in school meals,” he said. “A lot of school nutrition directors are looking at barley right now. It’s obvious why—barley has the same kind of soluble fibres found in oatmeal, making it very heart healthy.”
The IBC provided the funding and created the recipes for dishes that include risottos, salads and others that incorporate bread products made from barley flour.
Hayes said barley isn’t widely used in school lunch menus because most people don’t know much about the grain.
“A lot of people in the U.S. don’t know about using barley as food,” said Hayes.
She helped the IBC conduct a survey of school nutritionists that found very few had knowledge of barley beyond it being an ingredient in the ubiquitous beef and barley soup.
“It’s mostly lack of familiarity. People just don’t know much about preparing and serving barley,” she said. “But it’s not like we’re trying to introduce liver and onions to children, that would be a hard sell.
The Oregon pilot program began this school year and Hayes hopes the recipes will be available for all schools as early as next year.