21st century dining options for 21st century schools

HISD is looking to serve up more than hot lunches on flat trays as it takes school dining into the future.

Imagine schools with cafeterias that look like food courts or airport dining kiosks with a variety of tasty and healthy menu options. That’s the goal as the district moves forward with its 2012 bond program, which will offer the opportunity to rebuild and renovate eating spaces at 40 schools across Houston.

“The 21st Century School Foodservice model is an active sensory experience that engages the student population,” said HISD Food Services Senior Administrator Audene Chung, who is working with district planners to roll out the latest innovations in school dining as the bond program moves forward.

Any changes will continue to comply with the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.  The program is currently designed to help address the dual problems of nutrition and obesity, and serves more than 33.8 million children each day at over 100,000 schools.

HISD Food Services has been working closely with architects and administrators to improve the school dining experience and maximize participation in the lunch program by designing eating spaces that offer flexibility and creativity in how food is prepared and presented.

Students and staff will soon be able to enter their school cafeteria and notice fresh food items made in-house, along with state-of-the-art cafés, coffee and hydration stations, and self-serve vending machines. Customers will also be able to watch their food being prepared with on-site cooking demonstrations.

With technology and social media becoming more integrated into schools, HISD Food Services is also looking to use a mobile phone app and website as a method to interactively place orders, view daily menus and participate in surveys. The goal is to educate students on healthier food options, as well as improved customer service.

“We want to bring back the concept of true dining to our customers—the students,” said Chung.

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