One thing I remember from my childhood is public school lunch! For some reason, we all always looked forward to Thursdays because it was square pizza and corn day! Yes, each and every thursday we would line up and get one piece of square pizza, some corn (that we prayed was warm) a cookie, and that chocolate milk box that we all know and love! Well those days are gone, and Orange County Public Schools have taken school lunches to the next level! Food trucks are huge in the food industry now and when I heard that the public school system in Orlando was using one I had to go check it out for myself!
Orange County Public Schools purchased a food truck years ago for special functions and events due to food regulations now in the school system. Like some things, it sat around for most of the year until someone had the great idea to incorporate it into the lunch program! Here is the basis of what happens: The food truck goes to the High Schools, 9th grade centers and a handful of selected middle schools to test out lunches that will be hitting the school system soon. When the truck arrives the kid has the chance to get the regular school lunch or lunch from the food truck. The food on the truck is the same price as the school lunch, which also means reduced or free for a good portion of students in the school district. When the child arrives at the truck, they have their choice of 3 meals who are going head to head for the chance to be a regular meal at that school. After the child has eaten, they rate the food via iPad. The data is then collected and the new meal is chosen to go onto the schools menu in the future! So cool right?? Well I got a chance to see this process first hand when I went to try out some of the food and also got to dig a bit deeper into how this school system is changing what school lunches mean to the kids!
Before the kids got out to lunch I was able to speak to some of the key people in getting this program started. Not only do they have a team dedicated to helping this program take over, but they also have a dietician who helps create these meals that taste amazing and are good for you! Gone are the days of fruit cups in syrup and bags of chips! There are fresh fruits and vegetables at each and every meal now at Orange County Public Schools! This team also works hard to recruit sponsorships and funds for this program because they are doing all of this on a budget of less than 4 dollars a meal for everything! That means the food, workers, truck, supplies and everything else has to be done in that budget! Don’t let that fool you tho, as the school system here feeds more each and every day than Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld does on a daily basis!!! That is a lot of food! Also this program has made national headlines, beating out businesses like Subway in a nationwide awards program for excellence!
On the day I went, I was able to sample the 3 meals that were being tested at the 9th grade center. I sampled the Watm Asian Chicken Salad, The Green Bean Chicken Casser-Bowl, and the Asian Beef Teriyaki, For me, the Warm Asian Chicken Salad was the clear winner, however all of these meals tasted great and were good for the kids to eat! The best part of the day for me was interacting with the kids and seeing what they had to say about the food. Perception is everything for them and when they saw a huge food truck drive up the smiles started growing. One kid told me that she was happy that the truck was there because she could have some “real food” that day. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was the same food but presented differently! After she ate the food (she chose the beef dish) she told me that it was one of the best meals that she had while at school!
Overall, this program is something that really needs to be done in all the school systems. First off, it makes the kids feel like they have a change in their lives as well as a say in what they can have to eat. It helps reassure the parents that their kids are being fed great food and sometimes better than they would be at home. Lastly, this program helps the school system with funds and food from different partnerships such as Tyson chicken and Uncle Bens Rice (who is currently partnered with the Orange County Public School System!) I loved this idea and hope that it takes over the rest of the country!
I want to thank the ladies and gentlemen of the Orange County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services for having us out for this event and showing us just how much they care about the future of this country! So what about you? What do you think of this program? Is it needed in this country? Are they doing what they need to for the kids? Comment below and let me know!