Amarillo, TX - Panhandle students now have healthier choices when it comes to school-cooked meals because of new federal requirements.
The USDA knew healthier meal requirements would burden some schools with higher food costs so it gave them three years of leeway to slowly phase in the changes. The Amarillo Independent School District used that time to develop a resource that would not burden the district, but in turn save it money.
The school district built their very own bakery to provide its 53 schools with whole grain bread, which is one of the new healthier requirements. "We make loaf bread, hamburger, hot dog buns, rolls and hoagies," said AISD Food Service Director Brent Hoover. "Then any other products like chicken nuggets, corn dogs, or anything that is made with a breading type ingredient like grain has to be whole grain and we are 100 percent compliant with the USDA regulation."
The bread is made from scratch and served fresh to students on a daily basis. The AISD Bakery produces about one ton of dough each day, which ends up providing about 9,000 meals to local students.
Hoover said the bakery was a worthy investment for both students and the district. "It's reducing our cost because we are making it fresh here. We've combined the ingredients ourselves so we enjoy about a $40,000 savings a year."
The district-run bakery is unique because it's one of the first of its kind. "We're one of the first in the nation, if not the only one that I could find, that is actually doing this. So we're pioneers. We've learned a lot of lessons and we've come through it to really come out with a great product. So it's been a good experience for us," said Hoover.
Other than whole grain, the USDA is also requiring schools to provide more servings of fruits and vegetables.