AISD freshening up the school lunch line with local, organic options

Carrots grown by Johnson's Backyard Garden (Erin Cargile/KXAN)
Carrots grown by Johnson's Backyard Garden (Erin Cargile/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Chances are you’ve heard of farm-to-table, but have you heard of farm-to-school?

It’s a movement picking up momentum in the Austin Independent School District.

“We’re committed to providing Austin ISD students with tasty, healthy food, while sourcing locally and sustainable whenever possible,” said Anneliese Tanner, AISD Food Services director.

The district recently made the switch to all pasture-raised eggs from Vital Farms, an Austin company.  For the last couple of years, AISD has partnered with Johnson’s Backyard Garden, an organic farm in east Austin offering fresh vegetables in the school lunch line.

The demand for their produce has gone up in recent weeks as AISD rolled out a new salad bar option in the cafeteria for elementary students two to four times a week. By Spring Break, the salad bars were up and running on all 84 elementary campuses. After Spring Break, the district will start testing the salad bars out on middle school campuses.

The JBG Wholesale Manager, Michael Mosely, collaborates with the district on what to offer students. In the past, they’ve delivered beets, watermelon radishes, kale, and carrots — lots of carrots, which is something they’re known for.

Mosely says working with AISD has been one of his favorite projects. “Kids, they can’t learn when they’re hungry,” said Mosely. “So we’re pretty excited to be able to do this on a weekly basis, and it’s been a wild and exciting ride so far.”

The farm has helped with breakfast, too, providing kale for a frittata that was offered to students to celebrate National School Breakfast Week.

JBG has even upped production of certain crops to help feed AISD’s 84,000 students on 130 campuses.

Some of their organic vegetables have also been used in recipes offered on the district’s first food trailer, the Nacho Average Food Truck. It debuted in 2015 at Anderson High School, and made a comeback this year. The district will be adding a second food truck for the 2017-2018 school year which will make the rounds at all AISD high schools each week.

AISD says the food trucks and salad bars are fully funded by the Whole Kids Foundation and the Life Time Foundation.

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