We now know that we are what we eat, literally. The nutrients in our food provide the foundation for the structure, function, and integrity of every cell in our body.
Today’s students within Austin Independent School District (AISD) are more sweet potato quesadilla with carrot and tomato escabeche than they are frozen chicken nuggets and tater tots of my school lunch past. Think more farmers’ market and less corner bodega, with a staff that includes a buyer, dietitian, and professional chef.
As a community, this is something to celebrate, considering the link between nutrition and academic performance and given that, as of 2015, 15.7 percent of Texas high schoolers were characterized as obese.
Nacho Average Food Truck
On March 24, 2017, AISD launched its second Nacho Average Food Truck. The first remains stationary at Anderson High School in northwest Austin. The second will travel to a different campus each day, with 13 high schools in its rotation.
Nacho Average Food Truck serves breakfast tacos and a globally-themed burger menu that includes Mekong, Mediterranean, Tuscan, and Yucatan inspired burgers, as well as fruit and vegetable sides. Both food trucks offer low-cost or free meals to children who qualify under the National School Lunch Program.
The expansion of Austin ISD’s food truck program was made possible by Whole Kids Foundation, Google, Austin Food & Wine Alliance, and the Life Time Foundation, from whom AISD recently received a $608,100 grant.
The “Harmful 7”
These days, you’ll find several undesirable ingredients missing from Austin ISD school meals, known by the Life Time Foundation as the “Harmful 7.” These include:
- Trans Fats & Hydrogenated Oils
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Hormones & Antibiotics
- Processed & Artificial Sweeteners
- Artificial Colors & Flavors
- Artificial Preservatives
- Bleached Flour
Gone are the days of vending machine breakfasts and breaded mystery meat. Food that is highly processed and artificial has been linked to the prevalence of obesity, disease, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems in children. Today, AISD school menu options feature items like vegan lentil chili and Moroccan drumsticks.
The Future of Austin’s Public School Meals
Heading up the AISD Nutrition & Food Services is Director Anneliese Tanner, who has a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University and was referred to as a “finance-turned-food-policy savant” by Austin American-Statesman.
Several of Tanner’s initiatives have been implemented over the course of the last year and a half, including Breakfast in the Classroom and a gourmet salad bar. Now with the addition of a second food truck and the elimination of the “Harmful 7”, the future of AISD’s meal program is looking bright.
Currently, 47 percent of Tanner’s budget is spent on food produced in Central Texas and her plan is to increase that number to 65 percent in the future, with 25 percent of the overall budget spent on organics.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What does your AISD student have to say about the new school meals?