In a matter of eight days, the food distribution sites
operated by the Houston Independent School District in partnership with the
Houston Food Bank assisted nearly 40,000 families.
The 61 food distributions served approximately 1 million
pounds of food to families in need before being canceled late Wednesday. Nearly
2,000 staff and volunteers assisted with the efforts and were able to serve
5,000 families per day throughout HISD.
The cancellation of the distribution sites will remain in
effect as the district re-evaluates its process for safely delivering this
service to students and families.
When it comes to meeting the nutritional needs of HISD students, Nutrition Services’ work isn’t limited to the cafeteria. Their efforts go beyond the plate and all the way to the athletic field.
Nutrition Services Dietitian Nan Cramer and Chef Trainer Brittany Jones recently visited Delmar Stadium to serve up samples of green power smoothies — a tasty blend of apple, banana, soy milk, kale, no-nut butter, and vanilla extract — and to educate coaches, players, and parents on the impact of proper nutrition on athletes.
He eagerly sampled the smoothie and gave his approval.
Special Events Planner Nicole Bean has always been an organizer at heart, and that’s how she approaches scheduling and planning events in HISD’s catering department Houston Eats.
Bean is responsible for planning and overseeing events and creating the orders for them. Her attention to detail and ability to accommodate the needs of Houston Eats’ customers has proven to be an asset in her role.
“If you have 30 schools that want something all at the same time, it’s physically hard to be at all those places,” Bean said. “We only have so many delivery vans, so we have to be really creative in how we schedule. We also offer pickups. We really do try to accommodate everybody.”
Growing up during the late 1970s and 1980s in Houston’s South Park neighborhood, Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby and his childhood friends could never tell that anyone around them was going without or in need.
It wasn’t until he was an adult, he said, that he came to understand more about some of the choices that his family had to make — like always cooking at home and never eating out — to stay within their budget.
“There are a lot of families that go without food during the holidays,” Busby said. “It’s important for us to do what we can do address their needs, especially during the holiday season.”
The meals served to HISD students undertake a unique journey before arriving at school cafeterias, and Research and Development Chef Christopher Keegan is an essential part of that process.
Keegan is responsible for producing tasty creations that are nutritious, cost-effective, easy to prepare at the school level, and have accessible ingredients.
“I enjoy coming up with dishes that don’t look like school food,” said Keegan, who works for HISD’s Nutrition Services. “I’m constantly looking through magazines and cookbooks. We’re starting to do more international dishes, and we’re also looking at some vegan recipes.”
Visitors from Pittsburgh Public Schools toured DeBakey High School for Health Professions recently to learn more about the state-of-the-art campus and Nutrition Services.
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent’s Chief of Staff Errika Fearbry Jones said their district’s strategic plan includes adding another science-based school and incorporating scratch cooking into its food services.
“Houston is cutting-edge, so we’re coming here to kill two birds with one stone,” Jones said. “You’ve got to bring people along if you want them to buy in.”
Parents flooded the Lantrip Elementary School cafeteria Thursday as they joined their children — clad in pilgrim hats, white bonnets, and colorful turkey headbands — for a nutritious Thanksgiving lunch.
The annual celebration hosted by HISD’s Nutrition Services has attracted thousands of families to school cafeterias for more than 50 years. This year’s menu included roasted turkey with gravy, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, a fresh fruit medley, and ice cream.
“We get a ton of volunteers, but it takes everyone,” Lantrip Principal Magdalena Strickland said, noting that about half of the school’s 700 families participate in the Thanksgiving lunch each year. “When parents know you care for their kids, they’ll go above and beyond.”
Leticia Resendiz spends her weekdays at Seguin Elementary School, carefully preparing and serving wholesome meals to eager students.
A dedicated employee, she carefully reviews the instructions of every recipe and always remembers to follow health and safety regulations.
“I’m happy with this job,” Resendiz said. “I love giving the kids their breakfast and lunch. Everyone is so nice to me.”
Resendiz is one of four food service attendants hired by Nutrition Services in partnership with two transition programs — HISD-HCC Lifeskills and HISD/HEART (Housing, Entrepreneurship, and Readiness Training).
The programs are designed to help HISD special education students who have met all academic and course requirements for graduation but require transition services to complete their Individualized Education Program.
The Houston Independent School District will provide free breakfast and lunch to students for the 2019-2020 school year, but parents will need to fill out a new form to ensure Title I funding for HISD schools.
All HISD schools are qualified to operate under the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Community Eligibility Provision, which allows HISD to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner at no charge to all students, eliminating the need for free and reduced-price meal applications.
While parents will not need to complete and return a free and reduced-price meal application, they will need to complete a socioeconomic form (see below), known as the blue form.