It’s fall in Houston, and with the season comes football and tailgate parties. HISD’s Nutrition Services department is hosting lunch-time tailgate parties every Thursday at several HISD high schools. Jones Futures Academy and Scarborough High School were the first two schools to win an all-out tailgate party where students can enjoy a meal and socialize outside the cafeteria.
HISD Research and Development Chef Tom Valdivieso has a new appreciation for what he and his fellow chefs do at the district. As a first-time father of a newborn son who will one day attend an HISD school, Valdivieso understands the importance of his role.
“We always cook with students in mind so that we can make sure they get the necessary nutrients to succeed in school,” he said. “We are trusted with their well-being.”
Valdivieso evaluates the HISD school menu as part of his job to design school meals that are delicious and healthy.
“The goal is always to satisfy students,” he said. He accomplishes this by creating recipes, testing them, and tweaking them to perfection.
While school is out for the summer, HISD nutrition services chefs are busy in the test kitchen creating and sampling new menu items for the coming school year. And what our chefs have learned from the previous year is that our students want bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and culturally diverse food.
HISD Nutrition Services was recently recognized with the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Perfect Peach Award for offering locally sourced products such as summer squash, apples and watermelon on school menus.
The state’s Local Products Challenge, which asked districts to use more Texas products in their schools, is in line with Nutrition Services’ commitment to use locally grown products on its menus so students become familiar with the agricultural diversity of the Lone Star State.
At Stevens Elementary School, HISD Chef Brittany Jones recently demonstrated how to use summer squash in a variety of fun and tasty ways. “The students enjoyed learning about spaghetti squash,” said Jones. “They never imagined they could use a vegetable in place of noodles.”
Besides fruits and vegetables, HISD also serves milk and fresh bread from Texas.
As a reward for cooking healthier at home, four Gregory Lincoln Education Center students received laptops for participating in a Nutrition Services department healthy recipe contest. Culinary arts students were challenged to bake the Nutrition Services’ sweet potato muffin recipe, which utilizes whole grain flour and real sweet potatoes.
Nutrition Services Education Dietitian Jennifer Lengyel and Gregory Lincoln’s Culinary Arts Teacher Kelly Karavias encouraged the students to integrate nutritious ingredients into a recipe that the whole family will enjoy. “Everybody likes a delicious, warm muffin,” Karavias said. “Parents like it, little kids like it.”
Food Research and Action Center awards Nutrition Services $64,000 grant
The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) has awarded HISD’s Nutrition Services department $64,000 to expand the First Class Breakfast program in HISD high schools. The grant will ensure that students at eight high schools get a nutritious, free breakfast every school day.
A 2012 HISD study reported better academic performance, behavior, and attendance in schools that served breakfast. Nutrition Services Director of Operations Odell Warren explained how beneficial the program is to helping students stay focused in class.
Excited children in costumes will soon flood neighborhood sidewalks to perform their annual collection of Halloween treats. As plastic pumpkins fill with sugary sweets, parents may ask, “Is it possible to have a healthy Halloween?”
Nutrition Services Education Dietitian Jennifer Lengyel believes it is, through proper education. Lengyel has been teaching elementary school students how to become responsible trick-or-treaters and avoid the issues that come with overindulging.
“The goal is for students to have fun during Halloween, to learn moderation, and take care of their bodies,” Lengyel said. “Talking about how they feel when having too much candy is a better teaching tool than just telling them what not to do.” Continue reading
USDA’s MyPlate recommends children eat three and a half cups of fruits and vegetables daily, and the fresher they are, the more nutrients they contain. HISD Nutrition Services is offering healthier choices for students by adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to school menus.
“We want to offer more varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables to get the students excited about eating healthy foods at school,” said HISD Dietitian Amanda Oceguera. “It was rewarding to see the students’ positive reactions to our Texas-grown watermelon, and we plan to continue offering more items like it.”
HISD Nutrition Services dietitians and chefs worked over the summer to perfect the new recipes to provide their primary customers with healthy and delicious meals.
When Houston ISD’s Student Congress visited the district’s Nutrition Services production facility recently, a new partnership to help feed the hungry in Houston was born.
In May, the Student Congress lobbied Nutrition Services to make food donations to Second Servings, an organization that collects and donates leftover food. While Nutrition Services is unable to donate school lunches, it did find a way to make donations through its catering kitchen operations, and the district recently signed a charter to donate leftover food. Continue reading