What would it take for AISD to serve organic milk, produce? More kids eating school lunch

As Austin-area parents and students are getting back-to-school supplies in order, local school districts are preparing menus, placing orders and preparing staff for another school year of feeding thousands of elementary, middle and high school students.

Austin Independent School District provides nutritious lunches to thousands of children every day, but food services director Annelise Tanner says that they could serve organic milk and produce if more students ate the school lunch instead of bringing their own. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Austin ISD serves more than 73,000 meals every day, but they only serve only about third of the students at breakfast and only about half at lunch.

My kids eat breakfast and lunch at school every day. Even if I weren’t a single parent, they would eat the school lunch. From having packed countless ham sandwiches and bags of chips for myself as a kid, I know that a hot meal made from whole ingredients is better than the granola bars and cheese sticks that constituted many of my own elementary and middle school meals.

But not every parent in AISD is as big a fan of the food as I am. I’ve heard from plenty of you who have said that you’d let your kids eat the school lunch if they served organic produce or grassfed beef.

RELATED: Why I made my own lunch every single school day, from second grade to graduation

AISD food services director Anneliese Tanner has heard that argument a lot.

In a profile of her in 2017, she explained that the school district has more buying power when they serve more students, so the more students who buy school lunch, the better quality food they can serve everyone.

Many AISD schools now have salad bars, but the district can’t yet afford to buy all organic produce. Food services director¬†Anneliese Tanner says they could buy all organic produce if every student who is currently not eating school lunch ate it twice a week. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

So, what would it take for AISD to be able to make those changes to the menu? Ahead of this school year, Tanner crunched the numbers to find out how many students would have to start eating the school lunch to serve grassfed beef, organic produce and organic milk.

Here’s what she found:

  • If every student not currently eating school lunch made the choice to do so once a week, all beef served in Austin ISD could be grassfed.
  • If every student not currently eating lunch ate school it twice a week, AISD could serve entirely organic produce.
  • If students who aren’t eating school lunch now ate it three times a week, AISD could serve organic milk at every meal.

It’s worth noting that about 45 percent of the ingredients used at AISD come from Texas suppliers, so when AISD buys more food, they are spending it with local companies and farms, including Johnson’s Backyard Garden, which supplies several seasonal vegetables to dozens of Austin schools.

You can view AISD’s menus and learn about their purchasing program at schoolcafe.com.

 


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