Food service strives to find balance with taste, diets, adhering to guidelines

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Approximately 117,000 CFISD students spend 30 minutes of their day at lunch chatting with their friends and consuming whatever is on the lunch menu that day. Feeding that many students is an undertaking, and it seems nearly impossible to make everyone happy and follow the state guidelines.

Director of Food Service, Darrin Crawford said making everybody happy isn’t the easiest, there is always going to be a mixture of dietary preferences and restrictions, and then they also have to follow strict nutrient guidelines.

“Less diverse schools are easier to accommodate,” Crawford said, “because if you had schools where you had a higher percentage of vegetarians or a higher percentage of non-pork eaters, the downside of that is you have parents who are like ‘Okay, why does this school have this stuff on their menu and why does that school have that stuff on their menu?’”

According to a report by research firm GlobalData, the United States has seen a 600 percent increase in people identifying as vegan in the last three years. Vegetarian diets exclude meat solely, while vegan diets exclude meat and foods containing animal by-products. For example, Jell-O is made with gelatin which contains animal collagen making it a “no” product for most vegans. Restrictive diets, whether by choice, religion or other reason, create a unique aspect for the food service department.

“We always try to make sure that there is at least one option for vegetarians,” Crawford said. “One of the areas that we have kind of struggled with providing consistent meals every day is for vegans. Because that’s a lot more restrictive, it’s a lot harder for us to meet the calorie requirements that are in the guidelines that we have to follow.”

Crawford said there is a way to let the community in on helping choose the foods. Annually, they hold an event at the Berry Center to bring everyone from around the district to come in and try the foods before they put them on the menu.

“The food tasting is really probably our biggest event,” he said. “We usually have about five to six hundred people show up there, and we have it usually around January and February and we bring in things that we are probably going to use the next year and we have people do surveys.”