There’s something special about enjoying fresh food that is grown in your own county, not shipped across the country. Many schools across Texas are ensuring students get to enjoy eating locally grown foods.
The Texas Department of Agriculture held the inaugural Local Products Challenge in October 2013 during National School Lunch Week and National Farm to School Month to encourage schools to serve food grown and produced in Texas. To receive the coveted Golden Grapefruit Award, schools had to offer a weekly average of three or more local menu items a day.
Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) participated in the Local Products Challenge to raise awareness about its existing locally based menus and inspire the community to eat healthy.
“RRISD school meals have always offered some locally sourced menu items such as our milk,” says Crystal Berry, food services communications manager at RRISD. “Eating locally is important to our community, our parents, our students and our district. The Local Products Challenge gave us another opportunity to integrate locally grown options into our menus and get students excited about what they’re eating at school.”
Exposing students to new, healthy fare and expanding their palates has been a focus at many schools. RRISD has implemented Discovery Day, which takes place once a month and introduces students to new foods that may be served in their cafeterias.
“The purpose of Discovery Day is to expose elementary students to new fresh fruits and vegetables that are not a part of our regular menu rotation,” Berry says. “The second goal is to gauge the acceptability of the fruits and vegetables that we feature so we may add those into our menus going forward and offer a larger variety of produce.”
When students reacted positively to the edamame they sampled on a Discovery Day, the decision to add it to the cafeteria menu was, not surprisingly, a smash hit.
“When we offered the edamame on the serving line, we made 115 portions,” Berry says. “At the end of lunch, only one serving was left. Not only did the students take the edamame, they ate it.”
Passing on chips in favor of carrots may not be every child’s first instinct, but with the help of schools participating in initiatives like the Local Products Challenge, a healthy future is well within our youth’s grasp.