Decorating Plates to Celebrate Healthy Meals

Each year during National School Lunch Week (NSLW), nutrition staff at Spring Independent School District (ISD) in Texas looks for ways to engage students and get them excited about healthy school lunches.

Located just outside of Houston, more than 95% of the district’s 33,500 students participate in the lunch program daily. School nutrition staff is committed to making sure supply chain challenges or staffing shortages have minimal effect on the meals they are serving and they continue to find ways to keep hungry student customers well nourished.

Students in the district’s 25 elementary schools take part in a “decorate your plate” contest during National School Lunch Week. Each student is given a plate to draw or paint images of fruits and vegetables and decorate them with a healthy theme.

“We have about 1,000 students district-wide taking part in this contest,” said Jennifer Fasano, Nutrition Coordinator for Spring ISD.

Completed plates are then hung on the walls of each school’s cafeteria like works of art. Building principals then have the tough task of crowning a winning plate at each school, awarding the top prize of a new bicycle and helmet. Those 25 winners from each of the elementary schools go on to a district-wide contest where the winner gets a party for their class on the Child Nutrition Go, Glow, & Grow Bus. 

Celebrating delicious school lunches is more than just one week of the school year. Spring ISD participates in the “Texas Farm Fresh” program and brings in much Texas-made food daily. Lettuce served in schools comes from Kalera, Texas’ largest vertical farming facility which is located in nearby Houston. Bread for the district’s 35,000 students comes from a local bakery.

Texas is known for its ranches and orchards. Spring ISD proudly serves only milk produced in the Lone Star State and apples and pears grown in local orchards.

Locally grown and produced food helps the program overcome national supply chain shortages. When it comes to managing staffing shortages, nutrition department leaders are always looking for new team members. 

“We are in a constant state of hiring, we like to highlight what a fun place the school cafeteria is,” said Kevin Truong, Assistant Director of Child Nutrition for Spring ISD. “We have a mix of employees who have been with us for 30 years and newer employees.”

Truong says the school nutrition staff is like a family. They are proud to show off the beautiful food they create and their smiling faces show the love they have for the students.

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