HISD Nutrition Services honored for efforts to feed students

The Houston Independent School District was ranked No. 4 among the state’s top large school districts for its outstanding child nutrition program, according to the 2021 Kroger School Food Rankings released Tuesday.

Established by Children At Risk in partnership with Kroger, the rankings recognize top-performing school food programs that go above and beyond to ensure low-income students have access to healthy food.

The four-place ranking is up a notch from last year, when HISD’s Nutrition Services ranked fifth among large school districts.

“I am so proud of Nutrition Services and happy to see them get some well-deserved recognition.” HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “This team continues to step up to the plate and think outside the box when it comes to making sure our community is fed — whether they’re serving student meals in the school cafeteria or feeding entire families in the wake of natural disasters.”

Since the pandemic hit last March, Nutrition Services has operated six-days-a-week to distribute more than 30 million pounds of food and more than seven million student meals to HISD students and families.

The ranking committee applauded HISD for providing breakfast and lunch to no charge to all in-person learning students, as well as distributing student meals to virtual learners through curbside pickup models at schools, apartment complexes, and major community distribution sites.

“We are supporting a lot of kids thanks to our partners, such as the Houston Food Bank.” HISD Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins said during a virtual press conference held Tuesday to announce the rankings. “We know that it is difficult for a hungry child to learn, and often, the entire family is hungry, too.”

Annual rankings are determined by measuring meal participation rates and afterschool meal programs — two statistics for evaluating efforts to provide meals to low-income students.

HISD breakfast and lunch participation rates surpassed 85 percent among elementary students, with overall participation at 65 percent. The district currently serves about 99,000 meals per day — about half as many as they served before the start of the pandemic. Nutrition Services also offers an afterschool meals program.

Dallas, Pasadena and Aldine school districts ranked first through third, respectively, among the large school districts this year.

For the complete 2021 School Food Rankings, visit childrenatrisk.org/2021-food-rankings and go to Houstonisd.org/StudentMeals for more on HISD student nutrition.