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.
Each morning, food service attendant Pamela Cole makes her way down the special education hallway at Milby High School to serve a nutritious breakfast to her favorite students, each of whom she knows by name.
One day, Nutrition Services Team Lead Mari Thibodeaux assigned someone else to that hallway.
“The teacher called and said her students were waiting for Ms. Pam,” Thibodeaux said. “Can you believe they didn’t want anyone but her? It’s because she exudes excellence in all that she does.”
Students who walked into the De Chaumes Elementary School cafeteria on Wednesday were greeted with decorations featuring musical instruments, disco balls, and vinyl records.
Long cafeteria tables clad in green and yellow tablecloths with black and white music note centerpieces tied to colorful balloons — all in celebration of National School Lunch Week.
“I’ve never been a part of this type of event before,” De Chaumes third-grader Diego Martin Salinas said. “It feels kind of cool.”
Observed this year from Oct. 14 to Oct. 18 and featuring a “What’s on Your Playlist?” theme, National School Lunch Week aims to promote the benefits of serving nutritionally balanced meals to students.
Nutrition Services is sponsoring a student jingle contest in honor of National School Lunch Week, which is being held Oct. 14-18.
National School Lunch Week was created by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 as an annual celebration of the National School Lunch Program. This year, the theme — What’s on Your Playlist? — highlights the variety of flavors and dishes offered in today’s school lunch.
“National School Lunch Week provides us with a great opportunity to celebrate the importance of a healthy school lunch, while also reinforcing the importance of eating good food and expanding students’ palates,” HISD Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins said.
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.
Three HISD schools have been recognized as some of the country’s healthiest schools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
Baylor College of Medicine Biotech Academy at Rusk, Piney Point Elementary School, and Rucker Elementary School all were honored with bronze-level designations for the schools’ impact on children’s health.
The schools are among 355 schools from 23 states selected for the recognition.
As parents prepare for the upcoming school year, Nutrition Services has taken one key responsibility off their plates — providing students with breakfast, lunch, and dinner free of charge for the second year in a row.
All HISD schools are once again qualified to operate under the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Community Eligibility Provision, which provides students with access to three healthy meals each day — at no cost to them and without having to fill out a free and reduced-price meal application.