ACPS School Lunches Elevate Student Wellness with Build Your Own Lunches, Salad Bars, and Healthy Options

Earlier this year, the ACPS Department of School and Nutrition Services surveyed students in grades seven and ten to get feedback on their overall experience with school dining. They also conducted numerous taste tests and focus groups to get student feedback and learned students want higher quality proteins and fresh produce.

“I like that you can actually choose what you’re putting on your plate.” Said Louay Abdel Sadig, 11th grade.

New Café + Teria at T.C. Williams

“I like that it’s a lot of vegetarian options and that we actually get to pick what we want and we can actually see what’s going into our food,” said Shakayla Farmer, 11th grade.

T.C. high school students now have a fast, casual style, build-your own-lunch program. By customizing their entrée with fresh produce and quality proteins and cheeses, students select ingredients in four steps to build a nutritious meal by picking a (1) base of a grain, salad or a wrap; (2) a protein: antibiotic-free chicken, ground beef, or Paneer cheese; (3) a topping of vegetables, fruit or cheese, and (4) a dressing.

Cafe+Teria will rotate different cuisine styles throughout the month with several different international cuisine types including Mexican, Indian, Asian, Mediterranean and Caribbean. The program launched at the T.C. Williams High School King Street campus on the first day of school, with plans to have temporary pop-up Cafe+Terias at the T.C. Williams Minnie Howard campus and Francis C. Hammond and George Washington middle schools during the year. “ I feel like it’s a healthy option for all of us and we get to pick what we want to put on our own burrito, the other lines you have to go with the flow but this you get an opportunity to pick what you want to eat,” said a 10th-grade student.

Grab and Go & Food Courts

Renovations are scheduled for the T.C. Williams Titan Express Snack Bar room over the winter break to provide more of a market experience featuring student favorite hot meals and new quick “On-the-Go” meals so students can spend less time in line and more time enjoying their break.

Upgraded Cafeterias at Francis C. Hammond and George Washington Middle Schools are expected to be completed this fall at the middle schools.

Traditional lunch lines will be a thing of the past.

Francis C. Hammond and George Washington middle schools will feature new, scramble-style serving stations similar to what one would see at a food court. With student input on design, both cafeterias are also being upgraded and redesigned to provide a fresher, modern look.

Fresh Produce and Salad Bars

Students at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology and William Ramsay Elementary School can now enjoy free fresh fruits and vegetables as a snack during the school day, two to three days per week in addition to corresponding nutrition education. Options include fruit and vegetables such as purple potatoes, pomegranates, radishes and familiar but unusual varieties of old favorites like apples and citrus fruits with a preference to regionally grown produce as seasonally available.

All ACPS elementary and K-8 schools have access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the Greens and More salad bars, and secondary schools feature self-serve fruit and vegetable stations. Current USDA nutrition standards for school lunch require e serving a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables each week.

Catch a Rainbow Every Day

As an example of the efforts made to keep the lessons and the healthy eating intersecting, a pilot nutrition curriculum program, ‘Catch a Rainbow Every Day’ was underway during September at Patrick Henry School and James K. Polk and John Adams elementary schools in select first-grade, second-grade and third-grade classrooms. The program consisted of five grade-appropriate nutrition lessons focused on food colors, food sensory, portion sizes and math skills.

Students also got to sample a corresponding vegetable from the color group that they were studying: Red – Grape Tomatoes Yellow/Orange – Yellow Squash Green – Kale White – Cauliflower Blue/Purple – Purple Potatoes.

ACPS appears committed to enabling students to be healthy and ready as part of the ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan.