The foodservice department at KIPP San Antonio schools has a new meals provider this year: the San Antonio Food Bank.
The Food Bank provides meals of donated and surplus foods to 240,000 families and individuals in the San Antonio area. This is the first time it has provided meals to schools, though not the first time it has fed students.
Julia Manoli, operations manager for this four-school college preparatory public district in Texas, was looking for a new meal provider that was closer to home. “Our previous vendor was very far away,”Manoli says. “The food had to go many miles. The Food Bank is located very close to us, so it’s much more of a community-type delivery.”
The Food Bank provides the district with refrigerated, prepackaged breakfasts and lunches that meet the USDA’s National School Breakfast and Lunch Program. It also provides milk and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. The Food Bank makes daily deliveries to each of the four schools, dropping off that day’s lunch and the following day’s breakfast. Foodservice employees reheat the meals to serve to the students.
“We found that the San Antonio Food Bank, because they are already so much in the community and already feed lots of people, already has the facilities [to provide the meals for us],” Manoli says. “This is something they also wanted, to start doing school meals. They are already doing some after-school meals and summer feeding. This is the first time they’ve ever done regular NSLP meals.”
The Food Bank designed a preliminary menu, which was based largely off USDA-developed menus. Manoli’s team worked to tweak the menus to fit the district’s population. Manoli, who believes this partnership is the first between a food bank and school district, says the agreement works because the San Antonio Food Bank was also heavily involved in the district.
Through grant money, the Food Bank was already providing food-based programs for the district’s students and families to eat at home. One such initiative is a monthly distribution of produce, which is available for free to the families. Another is a healthy cooking class for middle school students, where participants learn some basic culinary skills and get to try out some new foods. Because the Food Bank is located in the heart of the district’s community, Manoli hopes students will be able to take field trips to the location to see their meals being prepared and to tour the Food Bank’s garden.
Manoli’s meal costs have decreased between 15% and 20% since starting the partnership with the Food Bank.