Child Nutrition managers Cristina Carino, from left, Kimberly Yu and Olga Lara try a new recipe while Chef Martin Johnson of JTM Food Group looks on.
HOUSTON – Oct. 9, 2017 – With National School Lunch Week, Oct. 9-13, kicking off on a student holiday, Spring ISD Child Nutrition managers used their time on Monday to develop new recipes that would appeal to their customers – the district’s students.
“The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘School Lunch: Recipes for Success,’ and we know that our meals need to be not only healthy, but they also need to taste good and appeal to our students,” said Shelly Copeland, child nutrition director. “We are always looking for recipes that will meet those criteria.”
The campus managers were joined by Chef Martin Johnson of JTM Food Group, who talked about introducing new recipes to students, then led the group through the preparation of two new dishes to incorporate on the school lunch menu – spicy marinara meatball subs and street tacos made with carnitas, pico de gallo, lime and queso fresco.
“I love getting our staff in with a chef and really letting them learn and experience and think about things the way that a chef would,” said Jennifer Fasano, Spring ISD nutrition coordinator. “It gives you a different sense, when you’re there in the kitchen, making food, and actually smelling and touching and tasting and experiencing the food, and then thinking of your students as customers. Because they are customers, and we want to put something out there that a customer would buy.”
In addition, student activities have been scheduled throughout the week to promote interest in school lunches and gather input from the students themselves about their preferences.
At middle schools and high schools, blank recipe forms will be handed out to students as they pass through the serving line, and students in culinary arts classes will be tapped as well to create recipes. Jeanne Stallings, child nutrition area supervisor, said the entries will be tested in the Child Nutrition Center kitchen to determine the winners. Not only will they be awarded prizes, but students could eventually see their recipe on the school lunch menu if it meets government nutrition requirements.
A contest at the elementary level invites students to draw their five favorite lunch foods on a coloring sheet. Their artwork will be displayed in school cafeterias, and winners will receive prizes. At the same time, the contest will help the district learn more about what foods the children like to eat, input that can be used to make sure school lunches are appetizing.
Elementary students may choose from several entrees in addition to nutritious a la carte drinks and snacks. Secondary schools offer eight or more entrees daily in addition to numerous a la carte choices found on all of the serving lines and kiosks. Fresh fruits, reduced-fat items, vegetables and whole grains are offered daily at all schools.
Following Hurricane Harvey, all Spring ISD students have had access to free lunches on their campuses due to a waiver that was originally offered by the Texas Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to those districts covered by the Presidential Disaster Declaration. The free lunches will continue through Oct. 31, thanks to an extension from the Texas Department of Agriculture.
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