If you attended a public school in America chances are you still get nightmares about school lunches that looked a little something like this:
Is that even actually real meat? It certainly takes mystery meat to a whole new level at the very least. Even on the good days the options appeared unappetizing, prison like in appearance, and always unhealthy. On the absolute luckiest of days there was lukewarm pizza or a dry hamburger.
Luckily today, thanks in many ways to Michelle Obama’s health initiative and the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, school lunches don’t bear much of a resemblance to that anymore. Schools all over the country are broadening their menus to offer tastier foods and even more importantly healthier options to get kids more excited about eating than about the social hour that many school lunch periods has evolved in to. Now a days schools are trying everything from involving local restaurant owners and chefs, to hosting student chef competitions, even developing revolutionary software and apps to streamline the entire ordering process, and in some cases even having food trucks cater lunches to give students the healthiest and most delicious food options available.
In fact school districts in both Colorado and Texas are among those blazing the trail when it comes to food trucks serving school lunches.
Ann Cooper, the director of food services for the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado puts it well, “In many places, school districts are one of the biggest purchasers of food in the area…We spend $2 million a year on food. That’s a lot of food for a school district to buy. For us to be able to support the community and our region as our region supports us is very important. When you work with small local companies, you can actually work with them.”
Cooper believes one of the coolest and most innovative things they are implementing this year to their food service program is the food truck. The Boulder Valley food truck was fully funded by a donation from Whole Foods and spends it’s time at the local high schools. It actually visits one of the district’s five large high schools each day on a rotating basis providing even more kids with the opportunity to benefit from it’s culinary skills. The food truck’s menu even changes on a regular basis to motivate students who won’t go to the cafeteria to eat school food. One week the truck will serve hamburgers on whole-wheat buns while also offering black bean or corn burgers, grilled-cheese and pesto sandwiches, barbecue pork sliders, and chicken pesto sandwiches with fruit, milk, and a side salad and the next week will be something completely different, but equally delicious. The truck’s meals cost the same as a meal in the cafeteria and is open to all students whether they qualify for free and reduced lunch or not.
With much of the recent food truck craze originating in Austin, Texas it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Texas schools are beginning to capitalize on the trend as well. Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville, Texas recently became the first public school in the state of Texas to provide a food truck as a lunch option for students. The truck is called Talon Taco Company, which comes from the school mascot, the hawk and came about after the Pflugerville Independent School District requested advice from students, the district’s dietitian, and it’s food vendor to come up with a food truck ideas as an incentive to renew student interest in lunch time.
The truck offers a Chipotle style menu consisting of fajita chicken, beef, and pork, green peppers and onions, rice and beans and in addition the truck’s chef’s make three fresh salsa’s on a daily basis. The meal costs less than three dollars and like Boulder Valley’s food truck is available to all students including those who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. There also plans to offer breakfast tacos from the truck in the near future.
The best part of both of school’s beginning to incorporate food trucks into their lunch options however is that they’re achieving their goals and getting students excited about lunch again, while still providing them with healthier options.
As Yvonne Lising, a junior at Hendrickson High School puts it, “Since the food truck came here people have been more excited for lunch, and they are more enthusiastic about it.”
Do you know of any schools or school districts in your area who are beginning to incorporate food trucks into their lunch systems? Leave a comment below!