Desert Sands's Student Perspective on School Nutrition

Student Perspective on School Nutrition

Student Perspective on School Nutrition
Posted on 02/28/2020
Group discussions on how to increase school lunch participationThe best way to get an answer is to go right to the source. You might not always get exactly the answer you were looking for but it will be honest and could change the way you look at things. That is exactly what happened in mid-January when the School Nutrition Association’s annual conference came to the desert.

They held their first-ever THINKubator and invited Desert Sands Unified School District to take part. THINKubator is an innovative concept of collaborative problem solving and idea generation and they used it to address some of the toughest school nutrition challenges.

Eight teams of school nutrition professionals were created. Each team had at least three school-site representatives, one supplier, and one or two DSUSD students. The question was “How do we increase school lunch participation?” Expert mentors and THINKubator facilitators were there to guide the teams through the process.

Once each team had developed its innovative ideas, they pitched their solutions to the conference attendees of over 600 participants. The audience voted and the winning team was able to identify a charitable organization that would receive 1,500 pairs of Bombas Socks. The team selected Galilea Center in Thermal, an organization that assists locals by providing food, clothing, and other basic needs.

The nine DSUSD students also participated in a panel discussion with the school nutrition professionals. They answered questions about food preferences, restaurant choices, why they did or didn’t eat school meals, etc… DSUSD students participate in school nutrition conferenceParticipating in the two-day event were La Quinta High School students Cristobal Henriquez-Cataldo, Erick Morales, Jared Prinzen, Kaitlyn Smith, Jason Rawlins, Max Flores, Melissa Trujillo, and Calvin Miller. Many of the students are involved in the culinary arts program at their school. John Glenn Middle School 8th grader Aiden Herrera also participated. They were joined by Nutrition Services Director Daniel Cappello and La Quinta High School Assistant Principal for Career Technical Education Michael Magnera.

Suggestions from the eight teams were heavily influenced by the student participation. Some suggestions involved food quality but two quickly surfaced to the top. One group suggested that there should be opportunities for students to work in the cafeterias and participate in everything from menu creation to service. The thought is that students participating in school lunch production would bring a greater understanding of the program and the federal and state regulations. But the winning suggestion was titled “Disneying up Your Lunch Line.” The two students in that group noted that part of their lunch time challenge is waiting in line. The group suggested that waiting is boring and causes problems in the line. Why not have interactive themes in the lines with video and animatronics to keep students engaged while waiting. The student participants in that group were freshman Max Flores and 8th grader Aiden Herrera. In addition to the socks they received several books on school nutrition. With both of them children of DSUSD administrators, the books found some good homes.

Student comments about the event were very positive noting that being asked for an opinion on school lunches was a first.
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