Wini Turner, Randolph Field Independent School District high-school cafeteria worker, prepares salads Sept. 12, 2014. The Randolph Field Independent School District removed itself from the National School Lunch Program this school year after facing a financial deficit in food services in recent years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Melissa Peterson) (Photo by Melissa Peterson)
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
The Randolph Field Independent School District removed itself from the National School Lunch Program this school year after facing a financial deficit in food services in recent years. But, with a revamped cafeteria menu, improvements are already showing.
In a two-week snapshot from this school year to last, RFISD schools have served about 700 more meals equaling $1,600 in profit, Lance Johnson, RFISD superintendent, said.
"The meals are still nutritious, but they taste great as well," he said. "Our intention is to allow our nutritional staff to be creative while providing quality meals that our student population will eat, and to bring our food service fund into a fiscally positive position."
Previously, RFISD followed federal dietary guidelines while in the National School Lunch Program, which heavily regulates a meal's calorie and sodium counts. Federal reimbursements were then dished out for every meal served based on a percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
According to the Texas Education Agency, about 60 percent of Texas students were eligible for free or reduced-cost meals during the 2013-14 school year. At Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, that percentage is significantly lower, meaning RFISD received less federal repayment, Johnson said.
"The RFISD board of trustees voted in June to get out of the program based on several factors, including the amount of food the district wasted due to the lack of students participating," he said. "We had a $53,633 negative balance in food service revenues for last school year alone."
Cynthia Moczygemba, Randolph Field ISD child nutrition director, said children have been receptive to the new cafeteria menu.
"Before, students would throw away whole portions of food or bring their own lunch, but now they seem to enjoy what they're eating," she said. "We aren't restricted to using only whole-grain ingredients anymore, for example, and can add more flavor."
Fresh salads, fruit bowls and baked chips are still offered daily, and the cafeterias still won't cook fried foods, "but we can be a little more creative," she said.
Additionally, when meals had strict caloric limits, "our athletes and marching band members, who make up nearly 90 percent of our high school population, would often be left hungry by the end of the day," Johnson said.
An increase of students eating food at the cafeteria is reversing a steady decline of those who would purchase cafeteria food in past years, Moczygemba added.
"I have eaten in our cafeteria several times this year and I encourage all of our students and parents to give our menu a try," Johnson said. "As we progress throughout the year, we will continue to try new items and improve our offerings."
Parents can visit the Randolph Field ISD website at http://www.rfisd.net and click "Cafeteria" to view posted menus or make online payments to their child's meal account.