More AISD students are getting free breakfast in the classroom this year. Here’s why.

I’m a big believer in breakfast in the classroom.

A total of 22 schools in AISD are now serving free breakfast to all students in their classrooms. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

For several years now, Austin Independent School District has offered free breakfast in the classroom to students at area schools with high enrollment in the free and reduced lunch program.

RELATED: Why we all win when students eat breakfast in the classroom

Last year, 29 schools offered breakfast in the classroom. This year, students at an additional 14 schools, including four middle schools, will have access to a free meal to start the day without filling out any kind of application or even leaving the classroom to eat it.

Each morning, the student breakfasts are dropped off in front of the classroom, and the teachers are in charge of distributing the meals as the students get warmed up for their day. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Here is a list of participating schools:

Pre-K: Dobie Pre-K, Uphaus ECC

Elementary schools: Allison, Andrews, Barrington, Brooke, Brown, Campbell, Cook, Galindo, Govalle, Guerrero Thompson, Harris, Hart, Houston, Jordan, Langford, Linder, McBee, Metz, Norman & Sims, Oak Springs, Ortega, Overton, Padron, Pecan Springs, Perez, Pickle, Pleasant Hill, Rodriguez, Sanchez, Walnut Creek, Webb Primary, Widén, Winn, Wooldridge, Wooten and Zavala.

Middle schools: Martin, Mendez, Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy and Webb.

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.

 

These two middle school culinary students created a taco that AISD will serve in every school next year

Two middle school culinary students made a taco last week that tens of thousands of their fellow AISD students will be eating next year.

Janett Macias-Lopez and Cierra Salazar of Bedichek Middle School won AISD’s Diced & Sliced cooking competition, whose prize included being served on AISD menus next year. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Janett Macias-Lopez and Cierra Salazar of Bedichek Middle School students were part of a Diced & Sliced cooking competition, a collaboration between the district’s Nutrition and Food Services and Career and Technology Education departments. At Austin Community College’s Eastview campus on Friday, six teams from local middle schools, including the Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy, competed for a really cool prize: Your taco on the menu at AISD schools next year.

As a judge, I got to try all of the competing tacos alongside fellow judges AISD Career and Technology Education Director Tammy Caesar, KXAN Anchor/Reporter Erin Cargile, Superintendent Paul Cruz, Chef de Cusine at L’Oca D’Oro Matt Lester and “Tacos of Texas” co-author Jarod Neece.

Last week, I got to judge a cooking competition between middle school students that took place at Austin Community College’s Eastview campus. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Bailey Middle School’s team made a breakfast taco, Gus Garcia’s team created a bacon and ranch taco (a ‘la Jack in the Box, they said during their presentation) and Lamar Middle School made a Brazilian-inspired steak taco.

This fajita chicken taco from Kealing was notable for its walnut guacamole and fajita spice. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

 

Students from Dobie Middle School made homemade tortillas for their pork carnitas taco, which got second place. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

These were good tacos, but they didn’t make the top three. Dobie Middle School students created a pork carnitas taco with cabbage slaw and an excellent salsa verde that earned second place at the competition, and Kealing Middle School’s team took third place with its chicken fajita taco, featuring a walnut guacamole.

The winning taco at AISD’s Diced and Sliced culinary competition came from two students at Bedichek Middle School. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

But it was the “Loaded Taco,” made with chorizo and ground beef browned with carrots and potatoes and then topped with fresh cilantro, avocado and a little sour cream, that won over the judges. Macias-Lopez and Cierra Salazar might have had the smallest team, but if the chatter on the judging panel is any indication, their taco will be a huge hit with students next year.

 

 

 

 

Some good Harvey news: Houston ISD students can get 3 free meals per day this school year

The only good thing about a once-in-a-lifetime tragedy is the once-in-a-lifetime goodness of people pours out.

Students in Houston can apply to receive three free meals a day this school year. This is one of the lunches served in the Austin district. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Here’s some once-in-a-lifetime goodness that popped up today: In a state that is reluctant to support students who rely on free and reduced lunch, Houston ISD is now set to offer every student three free meals a day this school year. That’s millions of dollars of support for public schools that, in previous years, have been asking for more federal support for students in need in the form of free breakfast in the classroom, expanded reduced lunch and improved quality of ingredients.

RELATED: After $10,000 in donations, all of Austin ISD’s school lunch debt is paid off (for now)

Should public schools outsource lunches to private companies?

Each morning, AISD serves a free breakfast to thousands of students throughout the city. In Houston, every student will be eligible for three free meals a day for the coming school year after Hurricane Harvey. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Houston school district, which has more than 210,000 students, received approval on Wednesday from the Texas Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to let students apply for a waiver that could cover the cost of all three meals that a school serves each day. (Many schools offer a third meal for after-school programs, including tutoring and athletics.)

Austin ISD serves about 80,000 meals a day, but Houston’s largest school district has more than 210,000 students, all of whom can receive additional free meals this year as the city recovers from Hurricane Harvey. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Families still have to apply for this waiver (click here for an application), but this news means that tens of thousands of parents can focus on putting their homes and lives back together with one less thing to worry about.

The politics of school lunch have subsided in the face of disaster, but Houston is about to become the largest free school breakfast and lunch test case in the country. We’ll get to see what happens when students get fed during the day, no matter how much money their parents make.