Salty, breaded meats. Dome-shaped mashed potatoes. Canned fruit. Think you know school lunches? Think again! Here are eight ways Austin Independent School District (AISD) is reinventing food service and delivering fresh and flavorful student meals.
1 Growing Strong: Cultivating School Gardens
AISD is leading the school garden movement with the Garden to Café program. Bringing together students, community members, teachers and administrators, the Garden to Café program serves healthy, fresh garden grown foods to students through school meals. Schools participating in the program are evaluated on water quality, protection from contamination, sanitary practices and harvesting procedures to ensure the safety of the food supply.
2 Going Local: Eating Close to Home
Through programs like Farm to School and Farm Fresh Fridays, more local food options are being incorporated into school cafeterias. AISD currently spends 47 percent of its food budget on purchases inside Texas. In the spring of 2016, AISD began featuring local Johnson’s Backyard Garden (JBG) organic produce on weekly menus.
This program will continue during the 2016- 17 year with two seasonal produce items from JBG each week.
3 Food Trucks: Innovating Delivery
Food trucks lend a contemporary vibe to healthy, tasty food—aligned with the culture of Austin. The Nacho Average Food Truck opened in October 2015 at Anderson High School, serving Mexican street taco options for breakfast and lunch. In the 2016- -17 school year, a mobile food truck featuring Vietnamese cuisine will be introduced. The mobile food truck will rotate among campuses and be available for district events after school hours.
4 Salad Bars: OfferingHealthy Options
Salad bars help expand healthy, fresh entrée options for students. Made-toorder salad bars currently operate at over 30 AISD elementary schools, with a plan to expand to all elementary campuses during the 2016- 17 school year. Salad bars feature local produce options and let students choose their protein, vegetable and grains.
Students discover new flavors through theme rotations such as Fiesta, Asian and Mediterranean combinations.
5 Worldly Menus: Exploring Global Flavors
AISD participates in the nationwide movement to bring chefs into school food service. The district employs a full-time executive chef dedicated to developing recipes and leading a staff skilled in preparing scratch-made dishes. AISD works with locally and regionally-recognized chefs to create global dishes that accommodate the diverse student body. All menus feature a daily vegetarian option.
6 Quality Matters: Raising the Standard
AISD is committed to going above and beyond the basic requirements to provide nutritious, appetizing meals that promote health, wellbeing and learning each day. Cafeteria cuisine is now part of a clean label initiative: all menus are free of high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and trans fats. In addition, menu items include no antibiotics ever, made from whole muscle chicken tenders, nitrate- free turkey hot dogs and GMO-free corn tortillas.
7 Breakfast: Kicking Off the Morning
Busy weekday mornings make it challenging for families to find time for a healthy breakfast. School breakfast provides a healthy start for students, fueling them for education and physical activity. AISD currently offers Universal Free Breakfast, meaning free breakfast for all students, at many campuses. In addition, some students receive Breakfast in the Classroom.
8 AfterSchool Eats: Rounding Out the Day
School meals are often the only food source for some children. Afterschool meal programs give more students the chance to end the day with a healthy meal. Afterschool meals are offered at campuses that have 50 percent free or reduced price meal eligibility or more and offer enrichment or educational programming to students. AISD expanded the program in the 2015-16 school year to 51 sites, serving over 5,000 students a day.
Lindsey Bradley works for the Austin Independent School District’s Nutrition and Food Services department.
All photos courtesy of Austin ISD Nutrition and Food Services.