The National School Lunch Program has served our nation admirably for more than 60 years through advanced practices and nutrition education, and is dedicated to the health and well-being of our nation’s children. The National School Lunch Program has been joined through the years by many other excellent child feeding programs, and there is evidence of continued need for nutrition education and awareness of the value of school nutrition programs.

The Santa Fe Independent School District’s YUM! Nutrition Services Department serves approximately 622 students breakfast each morning and approximately 1,532 lunches each day. They have a districtwide staff of 44 employees. Since 2000, this department over the years has consistently been the winners of the Galveston County Health Department’s Gold Ribbon Award. Their winning recipe for a healthy lifestyle includes a combination of both good nutrition and physical activity. Your body needs a variety of nutrient-rich foods to grow and prevent illness.

Well-nourished students have higher test scores, increased school attendance, improved concentration and improved classroom behavior. Students who are physically fit sleep better and are better able to handle the physical and emotional challenges that they encounter during the day. Nutrition and education are a priority in our district. We want to ensure all students have the necessary tools to succeed in the classroom.

Since food and nutrition are closely linked with the ability to learn, we want to make sure students have nutritious, kid-friendly and easily accessible food/snacks over the weekend. This allows students to be ready to learn when they arrive at school on Mondays. With the help and generosity of Aldersgate United Methodist Church, the “Back Pack Buddy Program” was created with this in mind for our youngest students at RJ Wollam Elementary. The program provides participating students with a bag of food each Friday afternoon. There is no cost to the family.

Each year the Texas Department of Agriculture challenges schools to use more Texas products in cafeteria meals with the Local Products Challenge and recognizes participants that complete the challenge. Our district has accepted the challenge this year and is currently sourcing Texas-grown products from our current suppliers and making new connections with local growers such as Santa Fe-based Moon Dog Farms.

The Local Products Challenge offers a new and exciting way to engage young minds and help students develop strong, sustainable connections to local food, farmers and ranchers. Plus, it adds local flavor to school menus and teaches students about Texas agriculture when they enjoy local products in school meals. Currently, Borden’s milk produced in Texas and Texas oranges are being served in the school cafes. Signs in the cafe help students identify locally grown products.

The district’s board of trustees proclaimed the week of Oct. 10-14, 2016, as National School Lunch Week and encouraged all residents to become aware and concerned about their children’s and their own nutrition habits, in hopes of achieving a healthier outlook for today and the future.

Patti Hanssard is the assistant superintendent for human resources and the public relations officer for SFISD.

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