Taking school meals on the road in Louisiana

The Curbside Café will soon be hitting the roads in southeastern Louisiana.  The Livingston Parish Public Schools’ child nutrition team hopes to increase meal participation at some of the district’s larger campuses by offering a variety of specials through the mobile food trailer. The team will also be working with the district’s Career and Tech Ed Department to involve students in the Curbside Café.

“We envision using the Curbside Café in so many different ways,” said Sommer Purvis, Director of Child Nutrition Programs for Livingston Parish Public Schools. “It will rotate between our 43 schools and we’ll also be able to use it if emergency feeding is needed and as part of our summer feeding program.”

Starting in the spring, the café will be visiting district schools two to three times a week. While the trailer does not have the capacity to cook quantities needed for lunch service, menu items will be prepared in school kitchens and assembled on-site in the café. There will be a quarterly rotating menu featuring local produce, such as salsa made with peppers from an area farm. 

The district encourages professional development for students through its Career and Tech Ed Department (CTE). One of the CTE offerings is in conjunction with
ProStart, a restaurant industry-backed culinary arts and restaurant management program for high school students. 

“We plan to have the ProStart students help develop menu items for the food truck,” said Purvis. “We are also working with the teachers to determine how we can incorporate the food grown on our campuses into menu offerings.”

Select Livingston Parish schools have school gardens and classes that grow crops using hydroponics.  Recently Buttercrunch lettuce and Simpson lettuce were grown and harvested by the Denham Springs Junior High horticulture class was served at lunch.

A great resource for school nutrition team members, the Curbside Café is a gift from the community several years in the making.  Livingston Parish’s Chamber of Commerce holds a leadership class each year, and before the pandemic hit, Purvis submitted a proposal for the trailer to be considered as one of the service projects completed by those participating in the leadership class.

“When everything shut down, so did the service project program,” said Purvis. “We were so excited to be notified that our project was picked when the leadership class resumed.”

Local Parish businesses that sponsor the Chamber of Commerce’s service project paid for the trailer and outfitted it with the basic equipment needed, including sinks, a fridge and air conditioning. A grant from No Kid Hungry paid for the truck needed to pull the trailer.

Students in Livingston Parish should start looking for the Curbside Café at their schools starting in the spring.

Purvis feels the success of the Curbside Café depends on the dedicated staff that will run it and support from the administration of each school. Principals can request the cafe to visit their schools for special occasions, such as their spring fairs. 

The school nutrition team recently took the Curbside Café on the road. It went to a gathering of the District’s Aspiring Leaders to discuss with them the opportunities for Curbside Café on their campuses. Below enjoy the slideshow of the visit.

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