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Thursday, August 14,2014

Meals on wheels

New food truck helps Boulder Valley School District take healthy lunch options on the road

By Heather Ridge
Heather Ridge
When Boulder Valley School District high school students return to classes this fall, they may find themselves looking forward to that lunch bell even more than usual.

In their continuing efforts to up the ante on re-envisioning school lunch, the district has recently acquired a new mobile food truck that will be making the circuit across all of the district’s high schools to provide even more options for the noontime meal.

On the menu: pulled pork sliders with slaw, all natural beef burgers, spicy chicken quesadillas. All locally-sourced, nutritionally balanced and tasty as hell.

The idea came to Brandy Dreibelbis, district manager for the School Food Project at BVSD, after seeing the popularity of food trucks grow in recent years. Due to “open lunch” programs, which allow students to leave campus to buy meals out in the community during their scheduled lunchtime, only about 15 percent of BVSD high school students eat lunch on campus, but Dreibelbis thought that if a food truck could go to a different high school each day, offering students healthy, locally-sourced lunch menu options in addition to those offered inside the Agriculture nutritional guidelines. Additionally, many students (and therefore parents) end up spending more on lunch purchased off campus than the $3.50 charged for lunch in the cafeteria. The price of a meal from the new food truck, however, would remain consistent with BVSD lunch prices. Students can punch in their number for items available at the food truck, making this option available to all BVSD students with meal plans, including those receiving free and reduced lunch.

Dreibelbis, who has been with the School Food Program for the last five years, put the idea to Ann Cooper, BVSD’s Food Services Director and nationally-known “renegade lunch lady.” Together, they came up a list of local supporters that share some of the same core values around healthy eating. They began with Whole Foods, who enthusiastically supported the project in full to the lunchroom, perhaps more students would opt to Connect stay tune with of $75,000 us to buy and outfit the truck, which on campus for lunch. became fully-operational this spring. The wheels hit “It’s a little more fun than just going in and getting lunch from the cafeteria,” says Dreibelbis. It’s drives.

the road the last week of school for the first few test important because the variety of food options surrounding local high schools (primarily fast food) are Keeping with their practice of cooking food not often in line with U.S. Department of from scratch using real chefs with food purchased as locally as possible, the menus began to take shape. Unlike other commercial food trucks, the new BVSD food truck had to meet the USDA’s guidelines for a “reimbursable meal.” At a federal level, school districts can receive some financial support for providing meals to students if they meet a set of regulations around nutritional standards that make use of USDA donated commodities. In order to receive federal reimbursement for a portion of the expense of providing a student lunch, for example, meals must include a protein, grain, fruit or vegetable and milk. The menu served through the truck would need to meet these guidelines as well. To help increase financial resources coming into the innovative School Food Program, BVSD has decided to take their meals on wheels this summer by participating as a vendor at different events to see what the local community thinks about the new and improved school lunch.

Starting this June, the food truck has parked at Fairview High School during the Ride the Rockies event and at Boulder High School for the Hanuman Yoga Festival. There has been a lot of interest in having the truck at different events around town and beyond, including the upcoming Venus de Miles road ride and other festivals. This month, the truck was a vendor at the Ironman Boulder, with 100 percent of all sales going back into the School Food Program.

“I like local food and I liked what I saw on their menu,” explained Alice Jose, a customer in line for the food truck.

Behind her in line, Ironman competitor Jim Toczylowski, visiting from New Jersey, was lured over to the truck when he saw they had Philly cheese steaks on the menu.

“The food is good! The kids are really going to like it,” he said.

In an innovative new partnership, BVSD and the Boulder Farmer’s Market have teamed up to create a 100 percent vendor-sourced breakfast meal. Historically, food trucks have not been allowed on-site at the market due to a variety of logistical limitations, but market organizers were keen to create a project that highlighted food grown by market vendors. Starting this summer, the truck has been serving a breakfast menu from 8-11 a.m. made entirely from locally-grown produce brought to the market by those local farmers selling their crops right next to the truck. With a seasonal menu featuring the freshest of ingredients, initial feedback has been strong. “It’s a great way to bring money into the program,” reflects Dreibelbis, who hopes to grow the district catering program and draw more attention to the many innovative changes within the School Food Program, which has become a model for many other school districts nationwide.

“We are trying to create the best lunch opportunity of our students.”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

 

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