DISD has teamed up with school districts from Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Miami, and Orlando for the Urban Food School Alliance program. This program aims to provide healthier lunches for less cost as well as bring in more environmentally friendly options to the school lunch system. The districts are taking it one step at a time, their first project being bringing in round, biodegradable lunch trays. According to Dora Rivas, executive director with food and child nutrition at DISD, they are currently working on specifications for a test bid, and the new trays will decrease a lot of the bulk in Dallas landfills.
“We currently are using a foam tray, and although it is recyclable, we haven’t been able to find a source to recycle our foam trays,” said Rivas.
After they finish the tray project, the Urban Food School Alliance plans to move on to ordering food items. While the food products may appear the same as previous years, the ingredients used to make them will be of higher quality and of more nutritional value. As the districts continue to meet, they plan to construct comprehensive menus and food specifications. By school districts ordering supplies together, the overall price will lower.
“We have looked at higher quality products that do not contain extenders and additives. These products are more expensive and, thus, unaffordable for school meal programs. It is our intention to look at common menu items that our district use and upgrade the specifications. By pooling our buying power we hope to be able to afford being able to add to our menus,” Rivas said.
Currently, DISD provides about 130,000 meals a day. According to Rivas, the Urban Food School Alliance will produce about 2.5 million meals. The Urban Food School Alliance program aims to set a trend for other school districts worldwide.