In a corner of HISD’s food services facility, employees are putting the finishing touches on breakfast.
“They’re making 120-thousand chicken and biscuit, and egg combos. Those will go out to the schools. The schools will put them in the ovens and warm them and serve them hot and fresh to the kids with fruit and four ounces of milk.”
HISD’s Julie Spreckelmeyer shows us around the district’s massive food services center in Northeast Houston, where crews prepare food daily for over 200-thousand students. At the only facility of its kind in the country. All food is prepared at a central location, much of it from scratch with nutritionists monitoring fat and salt content. The food is then transported to local campuses, where cafeteria crews assemble the meals.
“So in the old days we sent out a recipe for spaghetti and we would send it to three hundred campuses. Every time you’re on a campus there’s a new cook, right, and the cook decides, kind of what they want to put in those recipes. We wanted to ensure that our recipes were consistent throughout the district.”
And Spreckelmeyer says consistency is important, as HISD works to adhere to federal school lunch standards and its own nutritional goals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says childhood obesity has nearly tripled in the past 30 years, with nearly 20 percent of kids ages 6 to 11 now considered obese, putting them at risk for cardiovascular disease and other serious health problems.
“One of the things that we’re doing is we’re trying to ensure we have more dark green and orange vegetables on our menus, that we have fruits and vegetables menued every day. We have also increased the number of whole grains that we serve.”
HISD also hopes to teach kids how to eat healthy when they’re not at school. Spreckelmeyer says they’ll introduce foods such as bok choy and acorn squash.
“When we do put that on the menu, we’re planning on kind of educating the students along the way, so we’ll have signage up that tells them about acorn squash, a little announcement ahead of time, so that they know it’s coming and something that they can try.”
HISD puts together its menus with input from a parents’ advisory committee, as well as suggestions from students. Items on September’s elementary school menu include baked BBQ chicken and Italian vegetable bake. Students this year will also be offered a free breakfast in the classroom.
Gail Delaughter KUHF News.