By JAY TOWELL/Director of Student Nutrition
The science of nutrition continues to evolve and is generally accepted or referred to as a new science.
The focus of the Abilene ISD Student Nutrition Department is to support the educational process by providing nutritious meals to the students of AISD. Numerous studies have shown that children who eat a well-balanced breakfast and lunch, supported by daily physical activity and sufficient rest, are healthier. Properly nourished students will also achieve more academically, with greater school attendance and have fewer behavioral and disciplinary concerns. Simply stated, the body must be fed before the mind can be fed.
Good nutrition starts with healthy, well-balanced meals, but our commitment does not end with our menus. Our focus is to provide nutrition education to our students so that they will have an opportunity to make healthy food decisions for a lifetime. Our menus will continue to be progressive with our student’s preferences always at the forefront while staying committed to introducing new and exciting foods and experiences. We want to increase our student’s exposure to the wonderful world of food, nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Students having the opportunity to break bread together while sitting across the table and socializing will continue to be very important.
The 2017-2018 school year was a great year for the Student Nutrition Department that has carried over to the 2018-2019 school year. During the 2017-2018 school year, the Student Nutrition Department received our Administrative Review which is the USDA Federal audit that is administered through the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). The Administrative Review covers all aspects of our program from daily operations, nutritional compliance, quality, purchasing and financial management. I am very proud to say that we received a perfect audit with zero findings and zero technical assistance!
The Healthy Hunger Free Act of 2010 (HHFA) has provided us with some unique challenges with strict compliance guidelines. However, for the 2018-2019 school year, the guidelines were held at their current level which was a welcoming decision from the USDA. Along with the current guidelines, districts also now have the opportunity to apply and request waivers to not serve specifically outlined items that are whole grain. The process includes detailed justification for the request of such items prior to receiving approval. I have long been a proponent and have lobbied to the changing of many of the HHFA guidelines that would better serve geographical, cultural and ethnic preferences of school districts. For this school year, we did receive six waivers on products based on this justification. These products are tortillas, biscuits, hot dog and hamburger buns, pizza and pasta.
From the “did you know” department, here are some fun facts from the 2017-2008 school year. The Student Nutrition Department served:
- 2,819,186 total combined meals,
- 1,896,652 servings of fruit,
- 48,744 pounds of beef,
- 62,592 pounds of cheese,
- 70,920 pounds of chicken, and
- 2,119,920 servings of milk.
In addition, the Student Nutrition Department will continue to provide a summer feeding program where anyone ages 1-18 can receive a meal at no charge at carefully selected sites that will best serve our community. Hunger does not end with the school year, and Abilene has a large number of food insecure students / kids. The 2018 Summer Feeding program results were great as we served 35,807 lunches and 19,090 breakfasts.
The Student Nutrition Department will continue to look for opportunities to identify new products, recipes and concepts as well as identifying additional efficiencies to improve our service, support and effectiveness.