Head Start Home Cooking

Erin Trenbeath-Murray focuses on food for kids and adults.


Five years ago, Erin Trenbeath-Murray, director of Salt Lake and Murray’s Head Start Program,  pushed to make meals in the Head Start program something more than microwaved TV dinners. She set her sights on hot, home-cooked healthy meals, with no canned fruits packed in corn syrup. When she couldn’t find a vendor willing to partner with Head Start, “We decided to go into the food business ourselves,” she says.

What started at 300 meals for kids has grown into “4,500 meals a day and 597,000 meals a year, all with the same philosophy—everything is still made from scratch,” she says. The top-notch menu includes dishes like pumpkin soup and tofu jambalaya, delivered to programs all across the Wasatch Front.

Most people view Head Start as just an early childhood education program, but Trenbeath-Murray sees equal importance in educating adults. As the head of one of the largest nonprofits in the state, she knows that melding sound business practices with a passion for children and families is the key to alleviating poverty.“The entire philosophy of Head Start is to help adults with education and employment for self-sufficiency, and then education for children so that they can get off to a strong start,” she says.

The Head Start kitchen is helping children with healthy nutrition while also offering education opportunities to adults—after a 10-week course, they earn their food-handler permit and get help finding stable employment out in the community, Trenbeath-Murray says.

This spring marks an important milestone for Head Start: the first growing season of their new farm, which was recently acquired with Real Food Rising, a youth development leadership program. It will bring a food-to-table component to the Head Start kitchen.

Trenbeath-Murray says: “If it’s good for kids, there’s definitely a way to do it.”

For more information, go to saltlakeheadstart.org.

— Tessa Wilson

Salt Lake Magazine
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