Shine a Light: Nutrition Services Pleases Palates
When the school day ended, students filtered into the Duncanville High School cafeteria. They arrived for a Student Council meeting, but this afternoon, something extra was on the agenda. The Nutrition Services Department is rolling out a new all-beef hamburger patty. The folks who serve almost 14,000 meals per day at Duncanville ISD want to make sure the students, with their sometimes picky palates, like what they’re eating.
Nutrition Services Director Donna Woodard-Thomas and her staff keep track of students’ preferences by analyzing cafeteria sales.
“We look at the numbers at the end of each day and how many of each product is purchased to help determine what students like,” Woodard-Thomas said.
Nutrition Services also takes new products directly to their customers – setting up tastings with Student Council when they’re planning to make a major change. Duncanville ISD school cafeterias have been serving a hamburger for several years that’s part beef and part soy. Woodard-Thomas wanted a more natural product to put on students’ plates, and that’s why she asked their opinions on the all-beef burger she’s planning to introduce next school year.
Woodard-Thomas said Nutrition Services is constantly working to improve customers’ dining experience. Recently, the department added “flavor stations” at the DHS cafeteria to encourage both kids and adults to eat their fruits and vegetables. The seasonings are inspired by renowned Chef Paul Prudhomme and are designed to enhance the flavor of food while remaining sugar and sodium free. Students are starting to take notice.
“I tried it on a salad,” said senior Octavia Talton, “It was pretty good. It added a little bit more flavor to it.”
Woodard-Thomas, said it’s not easy balancing the strict guidelines set up by the United States Department of Agriculture with students’ desire for flavorful food. French fries and pizza are crowd favorites, but they’re also high in fat and sodium: two things that are restricted by the USDA.
A sneak peek at students’ survey responses showed the all-beef patty was a huge success.
“It’s really good. The texture and the taste – it tastes more realistic,” said DHS sophomore Madison Cooper. Her classmates agreed; several went back for seconds.
Nutrition Services – By the Numbers
47,000 lunches served each week
22,090 breakfasts served each week
27,000 pounds of ground beef cooked per year
52,800 dinner rolls baked from scratch each month
$67,500 worth of milk per week
$100,000 spent on fresh produce this school year