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New York School Nutrition Chefs Prefer Flavor of Wild Blueberries in Taste Test

Former public school Chef Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro, SNS (or Chef Sam as she’s known) now spends her time developing resources and training school nutrition professionals across the country as the Executive Chef of Healthy School Recipes. Every summer for the past eight years, she and Healthy School Recipes Executive Director, Catharine Powers, have been training school nutrition staff in a five-day culinary training program. Last summer, through grant funding from the Culinary Institute of America, the five-day program was piloted in New York State. More than 30 school nutrition professionals attended, with a large contingency from the New York City school district.

Wild Blueberry Dip: Flavor and Versatility

One of the recipes Chef Sam likes to demonstrate in the multi-day training program is a Wild Blueberry Peanut Butter Dip (thawed frozen wild blueberries and peanut butter puréed together) she created for the wild blueberry school nutrition program.

She says, “The wild blueberry dip delivers that quintessential peanut butter and jelly flavor – a staple in school nutrition – that children love, without any added sugar (note peanut butter can be replaced with SunButter).” For the demonstration, she presents it in a healthy grab-and-go bento box with fruit and veggies but notes it’s great for breakfast, lunch, or an afterschool snack, and delicious when you spread it on an English muffin or sandwich.

Chef Sam typically uses wild blueberries for the demonstration, but in New York had to use regular blueberries. “In New York, I only had the larger blueberries, and the flavor of the dip just was lacking. In fact, there was hardly any flavor to it at all except for the peanut butter,” she said. “I realized it was the wild blueberries that really elevated the flavor in this easy-to-make dip.”

To highlight the flavor difference in such a simple menu execution, Chef Sam went out and purchased frozen wild blueberries and made the dip again for the school nutrition professionals and did a side-by-side taste comparison. 

“The wild blueberries really carry the flavor in this dip, and they noticed a real difference,” she said. “And because the wild blueberries deliver such delicious flavor in this dip, even if you need to swap out the peanut butter for SunButter or an alternative nut butter to accommodate any allergy, you won’t sacrifice taste,” she added.

Value of Simple, Flavorful Dips for School Nutrition Programs

According to Chef Sam, “Kids love to dip, especially at the elementary school level, so why not create applications beyond the more traditional savory options like hummus. This wild blueberry dip can cater to a child’s sweet tooth, but still be a healthy option. You can dip apples in it, you can dip graham crackers in it, you can dip cheese in it. Plus, it’s a creditable dip for protein and there are not many of those besides a bean dip, and you’re getting your fruit. You don’t get any fruit crediting in a peanut butter and jelly, just protein.”

Wild Blueberries are a Low Glycemic Food

Not only does Chef Sam highlight the flavor and menu versatility of the wild blueberry dip, but also that it delivers a healthy, sweet treat for students without all the sugar. She says, “The wild blueberry dip tastes like peanut butter and jelly without any of the sugar.”

Per serving, wild blueberries have 32% less sugar than ordinary blueberries and are considered to be a low glycemic food. The Glycemic index ranks carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized. They cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels. Wild blueberries have a glycemic index of 53.

As Chef Sam sees it, “Wild blueberries are naturally sweet, and as school nutrition programs look to find ways to reduce sugar in the food they prepare for students, having this unique and native fruit on hand is a win-win for everyone.”

Tell your buyer! Wild Blueberries are available via USDA Foods in 32 states. USDA Foods #100243 for a 30lb case or USDA Foods #100242 for a 24lb case. Make sure you are ordering WILD blueberries! If you don’t see Wild Blueberries on your state order list, contact [email protected].