Below are just a few of the ways HISD ensures that its students get proper nourishment—with whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
First Class Breakfast
HISD began offering free breakfast to all of its students in the fall of 2005. Two years later, it launched the First Class Breakfast program, which delivers a tasty, hot, nutritious meal directly to students in their classrooms—and by the fall of 2010, the program was active in every district elementary and middle school.
New Food Services Facility
Completed in 2009, this 200,000+ square-foot facility in northeast Houston allows the district to maintain strict quality controls on the approximately 50 million meals it produces annually for students. And, since it makes all of its food from scratch, the need for additives or preservatives is eliminated.
Stricter Nutritional Standards
Although no national standards or restrictions exist for the amount of sodium that can be used in the preparation of meals provided to children at school, HISD has set its own limits to reduce students’ daily salt intake, while still maintaining the flavor of its offerings.
In the fall of 2008, HISD launched Parent Online, a Web-based system that enables parents to prepay for their children’s school meals using a credit card, view account balances and student purchase history, and manage their children’s nutrition online. Accessible 24 hours a day on the Food Services Department Web site, the system also e-mails parents when account balances are low.
Food Services Parent Advisory Committee
This committee gives parents a forum in which to share their ideas about the meals and snacks provided to students at HISD facilities. Members work with representatives from HISD Food Services/ARAMARK to create menus and programs that support healthy eating practices and emphasize positive nutrition at all schools. The committee makes recommendations to the general manager based on the results of studies, focus groups, taste-tests, and other activities.
Free and Reduced Price Lunch
Almost 80 percent of HISD students come from economically disadvantaged households, in which regular, nutritious meals are sometimes not available. Children from qualifying households may participate in the Free and Reduced Lunch program, in which students receive midday meals at no charge or at a fraction of the regular cost. Applications are available at every school and through Food Services (713-491-5944), or you can sign up online.
Summer Food Service Program
From late May through early July, the district also runs the Summer Food Service Program, through which students up to age 18 can obtain free breakfast and lunch at participating HISD campuses. HISD works closely with the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department to provide free cold lunches to students after the district’s program has concluded, but before the new school year has started up again in August.
Foods of Minimum Nutritional Value
To help students make better decisions when choosing their meals, the district began restricting students’ access to Foods of Minimum Nutritional Value (FMNV) on campuses in 2003, and offering fresh fruit and baked chips as snack options. HISD has also worked closely with ARAMARK for years to develop reduced-fat, -sugar, and -calorie versions of students’ favorite foods, such as breakfast sandwiches, pizzas, hamburgers, and tacos. See current menu offerings here.
HISD has ongoing partnerships with a number of organizations (such as Urban Harvest) to teach students more about where food comes from through hands-on activities involving the planting, growing, and harvesting of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. A number of schools work with local grocery stores, too, to expand students’ knowledge of fresh foods by introducing them to fruits and vegetables they may not be familiar with.