NISD school cafeterias: providing nutritious meal choices every day

October 14, 2013

More than 112,000 meals are served in a day at Northside ISD, making it San Antonio’s largest restaurant operation! In honor of National School Lunch Week, which runs Oct. 14-18, the District is encouraging parents and patrons to stop by their local school cafeteria and see how school cafeteria food has changed.

NISD’s Child Nutrition Services consists of more than 1,200 dedicated employees who work hard every day to provide good nourishing food for the students of NISD. With approximately 112,000 total meals served daily (that amounts to 20 million meals annually),  the department consists of 2 dietitians, 2 accountants, and nine area supervisors to monitor the day to day operations.

Their staff also consists of a loveable monkey named Northside NIC (Nutrition Information Chimp). NIC is on a campaign to teach students healthy eating habits while exercising daily. For more information on NIC, go to his website.

School cafeteria food is a favorite target of the media, school politicians and the public in general. Here are some answers to some common questions – and misconceptions – about the food served in Northside ISD’s cafeteria.

Items that don’t sound very healthy – like pizza, curly fries and cheese enchiladas – are still served in NISD school cafeterias. How is possible that these items meet the federal nutrition guidelines?
Yes, these items are still served in NISD cafeterias, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that the way cafeteria food is made has changed a lot over the past decade. For example, the pizza is made with low-fat cheese and whole grain crust; the curly fries are baked, not fried; and cheese enchiladas are made with low-fat cheese.

The nutritional content of every item served in NISD cafeterias can be found on the Child Nutrition website. Just look at the list on the left side of the page for elementary, middle, and high school breakfast and lunch menus. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new nutrition regulations last year. How did these regulations affect the food served in NISD cafeterias?
The Texas Department of Agriculture already met many of the new regulations before they were even implemented, and Northside ISD has even stricter standards than the state, so the new guidelines had little impact on NISD. However, the Child Nutrition Department is continually looking for ways to improve menu offerings.

Is it true that the tomato paste used to make pizza counts as a vegetable?
Last year, there was a lot of media attention about this topic, as Congress was debating the federal school nutrition guidelines. While some school districts might count tomato paste as a vegetable, that isn’t the case in Northside ISD. Students can choose from a huge selection of fresh fruits and vegetables every day.

Okay, so the cafeteria food is healthy, but does it taste good?
Anyone who would like to taste the food for himself or herself is more than welcome to join the 100,000 students and staff who eat in NISD cafeterias every day.

What can parents do to encourage healthy eating at school?
Parents play a critical role in helping their children make healthy choices. Parents should read the cafeteria menu each week and encourage their child to try new foods at school. Parents are also encouraged to make a school lunch date with their child and talk to their child about choosing healthy foods at school and at home.

For more information about the District’s nutrition policies and programs, visit the NISD Child Nutrition website.