Orange County (FL) Public Schools Food & Nutrition Services has been awarded a USDA Food and Nutrition Services Best Practice Award. The regional award is given through the state’s Child Nutrition Programs for increasing participation in school lunch or breakfast. The district had increased high school lunch participation by 40 percent, meeting the school board’s Wellness Policy.
“It is an honor to receive this recognition from the USDA. We listened, researched and implemented what our students wanted to eat,” says Lora Gilbert, director of the food & nutrition services program.
The Food & Nutrition Dept. received the award for going to students and gaining their opinion through focus groups and surveys. The department then took the results and worked with manufacturers and brokers to find or produce menu items the students wanted. They were taste-tested at the Student Food Show, where more than 200 elementary, middle and high schools students evaluated items presented by 25 different suppliers. The selected items were then piloted in select high schools last spring and then implemented in all high schools this fall.
The additions included items such as a Fruit and Cheese Salad, Sun Dried Tomato Alfredo, Swedish Meatballs, Barbecue Roasted Chicken and popular Asian items that all meet federal nutritional guidelines. Also menued are an array of vegetarian items like Cheesy Garlic Flatbread, Veggie Dippers and Veggie Barbecue Rib Sandwiches.
Orange County serves more than 26 million meals and snacks each year, or approximately 145,000 meals per day. In addition, the department brings in more than $45 million in federal money to the district.