We here at TIA do more than just feed your children’s minds! We also fill their tummies! And Angie Meza, the TIA director in training for the National School Lunch Program, makes sure our students are eating nutritious and tasty foods every school day.
National School Lunch Program Established in 1946
As a nation, we have become more aware that what we eat has a huge impact not only on our physical health, but also our overall well being. The National School Lunch Program, a federally assisted meal program, was established in 1946 under president Harry Truman. The program provides nutritiously balanced, low-cost or free lunches and breakfasts to school children throughout our nation. On the local level, the menus, foods and preparation follow the national guidelines, but also take into account cultural preferences and fresh food options locally available.
Students Given Many Options
TIA students are given several options each day for their meals. There are daily standard offerings of burritos and salads, in addition to freshly prepared meal choices. The meals for TIA are prepared off-site and catered in daily. The food is prepared by chefs in the TUSD kitchens and arrives twice daily, for breakfast and lunch, at all four TIA campuses. Making sure that the food arrives at the correct temperature and that all health and safety regulations have been followed is a regular task for Ms. Meza and the rest of the TIA food service staff.
But there’s more to feeding kids than just offering them healthy food! There’s nothing healthy about an apple if it ends up in the garbage can! Therefore, the TIA food service staff take great care to monitor and note what foods TIA students like and actually eat. Adjusting menus to account for student preference, while keeping all the options nutritionally balanced and adherent to National School Lunch Program regulations, can be challenging. But the TIA food service staff provide valuable feedback, which not only ensures our kids have healthy options they’ll actually eat, but also dramatically cuts down the amount of wasted food!
What Are the Kids Favorite Meals?
Ms. Meza says some of the kids’ favorite meals are pizza (offered every Wednesday), baked chicken with mashed potatoes with gravy, and of course spaghetti. The kids also loved the chicken and waffles meal. Thursdays are known as Fusion Day, when the students are offered an international meal such as Caribbean Alfredo, or Baha fish tacos. On these days, they encourage the kids to try something new. There was a dipping sauce offered with fresh veggies and an Asian dish the kids were not crazy about, so Ms. Meza was quick to let the chefs know to remove them from future menus.
But that doesn’t happen often she says. The meals are so well prepared and balanced, the kids get all the fruits, veggies and protein they need, often without even realizing it! The chefs are very skillful in their ability to prepare foods in a healthy and balanced way that still appeals to kids.
Ms. Meza has recently started sending home the Nutrition Nuggets Newsletter in both English and Spanish. These newsletters, provided by the National School Lunch Program, are chock full of tasty bits of information about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle for kids and parents. Besides overseeing the daily food services at all four TIA campuses, Ms. Meza sees education about healthy eating as a huge and enjoyable part of her job.