Your school meals


The poor, over-beaten topic of school meals and how they are essentially colored cardboard is hardly the case for KISD and deserves more credit.

First, schools must abide by federal regulations enacted by old men in Congress. After that, schools must operate and purchase food within their budgetary limits. Since this is the U.S. where healthiness means expensiveness, staying on budget can mean neglecting healthier options. Katy ISD, however, is working well over the heads of unhealthy foods.

“Nutrition and Food Service consistently woks to provide healthy meals and a la carte choices to a variety of customers at breakfast and lunch,” said Donna Pittenger, assistant director of KISD Nutrition and Food Service, “Our goal is to continue to provide this service without increasing meal prices.”

Each meal meets about a third of students’ percent daily value for calories, fat, and minerals (a full regular lunch meal targets 800-900 calories). None of the meals contain any trans fat (the worst type), and saturated fat only makes up a little less than a third of the total fat. This means most of the fat is unsaturated, the generally healthier type. No in-school frying is allowed, according to state regulations, so the kitchens use no oil; however, foods like fries and chicken sandwiches are pre-fried by the food provider.

Not all meals are created equal, and nutritional value per meal varies within a limit.

“The nutritional information is available for all meals, and at some time a link on our department’s website will allow patrons to access that information,” said Pittenger, “At this time, I send the information upon request.”

The healthiest part of school meals are the fruits and veggies of course. Fresh produce is provided by Third Coast Produce Company. KISD also participates in the state’s Farm to School program, meaning locally-grown produce instead of just national manufacturers’ preservative-stuffed produce. The program allows oranges, apples, and watermelon grown in the Rio Valley to be delivered to school within the week. Availability of certain produce is dependent on season and weather, but Pittenger agrees the fruit is wonderful.

Organic foods, however, are not on the immediate horizon for school meals. The often higher cost of organically grown food prevents it from inclusion in regular meals, though it may eventually be available as an a la carte item.

KISD Nutrition and Food Service has a satisfactory budget, operating itself much like its own business. It does not foresee any meal price increases soon.
“The department is also looking into food trends would fit in our price point such as an a la carte ‘dollar menu’ for next year.”

They continue to look for creative ways to improve its service and meal options, and it is quite open to answering questions and sharing ideas.