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.”
School may be out for winter break, but cafeterias will be open at five HISD high schools, where Nutrition Services will offer meals free of charge for all children ages 1 to 18.
Booker T. Washington, Chavez and Madison high schools will serve breakfast and lunch during winter break. Additionally, Yates High School will serve lunch only, and Revere Middle School will serve breakfast only. Children ages 1 to 18 can enjoy a healthy breakfast and lunch at no charge, while adults can purchase breakfast for $2.75 and lunch for $4.
“We know our students can’t learn and thrive without
healthy food to fuel them — and that need does not stop just because schools
close for the winter break,” HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said.
“Ensuring student health, safety, and well-being is one of our strategic
priorities, and this program takes us one step closer to achieving our goal.”
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.”
As Bastian Elementary School students filed out onto the green campus lawn, two adventurous boys quickly claimed their garden bed and took turns prodding the large brown mushrooms growing along the side.
Nestled alongside each other, the first- and second-graders paid careful attention as they were taught about garden safety and tools that can be used in a garden, like trowels, shovels, wheelbarrows, watering cans, water hoses, and even gloves.
The duo was participating in a new student garden pilot program launched in October and designed to help students understand the importance of food literacy and living a healthy lifestyle.