Only about 700 — or less than one percent — of HISD students have special dietary needs that require restricted diets, but providing those children with healthy, nourishing food is all in a day’s work for HISD’s Nutrition Services department.
Dietitian Lindsay Smith works closely with nurses and kitchen staff to monitor students who need allergen-free meals, and HISD as a district eliminated all peanut and tree-nut products from its recipes two years ago as a precaution, to prevent accidental allergic reactions.
“Ensuring student safety is our number-one concern,” Smith said. “All decisions made with regards to special diets are done to ensure that our students can safely eat HISD meals.”
Smith is responsible for making accommodations for all HISD students with special dietary needs, including those with allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. Food service attendants are responsible for following Smith’s directives and providing special menus to affected students. Accommodations range from a short list of restrictions to a very strict menu cycle, containing only the acceptable foods that a student is allowed to eat.
“At HISD, we receive a wide range of special dietary requests,” Smith said. “They range from the ‘top 8’ allergens — which are eggs, milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish — all the way down to tomatoes, grapes, and sesame seeds.”
Parents of students with allergies or other special dietary requirements should notify their school’s nurse in order for Nutrition Services to develop individualized accommodations to suit their needs.