Details about the nutritional content of any school’s daily breakfast or lunch special will be a lot easier to find starting this fall.
The Cherry Creek School District’s Food and Nutrition Services department has spent the summer refining a new approach to providing students and parents with specific information about food available in all of the district’s cafeterias. Thanks to the Nutrislice online and mobile platform, details about every meal from every district building will be available at ccsdcafe.org. That same information will be available to smartphone users through a free app.
The details available in the system range from fat counts to lists of allergens. It’s an in-depth approach to school meals that stems from a specific demand, according to officials from the Food and Nutrition Department.
“There’s so much more information that people want to know about our food,” said Erika Edwards, a Wellness Supervisor for the department. “People want to know the carbohydrate counts in things, in case kids are diabetic. People with food allergies want to know the allergens that are in their meal. People want to know what the food looks like.”
The Nutrislice system includes facts and photos every food and drink item available at every single school. The database includes counts of calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in any menu item. It’s simple to check out the iron content of a chicken sandwich, the protein count in an enchilada and the amount of calcium in a cheese burrito.
All of this information was available in different places before the launch of the Nutrislice system, but the new database offers a one-stop shop for those looking to read up on school meals.
“A nurse or a parent can click on carb counts,” Edwards said. “All of the menu items will show Monday through Friday.”
Parents and students can even navigate menus around a specific food allergy. The new system offers filters that can single out meals with dairy, egg, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shell fish. That allows a student with specific dietary needs to design an individualized, safe weekly meal plan. Those options come along with the other tools on the ccsdcafe.org website, which include the option to prepay for meals online and apply for free and reduced lunch rates.
The updated Nutrislice system also allows users to chime in with their own opinions about meals. A comment section allows students and parents to send input directly to department officials.
It’s part of the department’s bigger efforts to get students and parents to help steer the district menu. In addition to yearly taste tests at schools across the district, department officials have also tested possible recipes at the district’s Wellness Summit and other events.
The system’s online comment component adds another tool in getting firsthand feedback about food.
“Those comments come to our department. We would certainly go out into schools – we have a bit of a plan for testing new recipes during every year to lead up to what would be new on the menu for the next school year,” Edwards said. “If I got a lot of the same feedback on one item, that would be a priority.”
As a whole, the system is part of a bigger push to reimagine and redefine the school meal. Gone are the days of daily Sloppy Joes and greasy pizza. From federal nutrition guidelines to more health-conscious students and parents, the state of the school meal is changing. This new system gives a whole new level of insight into that revolution.
“School meals are changing a lot,” Edwards said. “We’re trying to change people’s old-school views of school meals. Part of that is providing information to the community. This is one way of doing that.”
-- Posted Aug. 27, 2014