Spring ISD Child Nutrition Department earns big kudos during statewide competition

school lunch boxes with sandwich and fresh vegetables, bottle of water, nuts and fruits on white wooden background. healthy eating concept. top view with copy space

HOUSTON (SPRING ISD) — With the new school year now underway, members of Spring ISD’s Child Nutrition Department joined the Spring ISD Board of Trustees during the board’s September meeting to celebrate several honors awarded to the department over the summer, including once again receiving “Best of the Bunch” status in the Texas Department of Agriculture’s annual Farm Fresh Challenge.

Held each fall, the competition challenges school districts to serve Texas-sourced foods and provide educational opportunities to help students learn more about nutrition and Texas agriculture. Out of more than 1,000 eligible districts statewide, about 90 earned the Best of the Bunch designation this year.

“It’s about serving local and promoting local,” said Spring ISD Nutrition Coordinator Jennifer Fasano, “and it’s about educating students on the local farms and Texas businesses that we support.”

In addition to the award from the Texas Department of Agriculture, the district was also named a Silver Awardee in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s third annual “Turnip the Beet” contest, which recognizes stand-out summer meal programs. In 2019, just 118 programs nationwide received bronze, silver or gold awards for their efforts in the summer of 2018, including 15 gold and 66 silver awardees.

“This was our third year in a row winning the Farm Fresh Challenge, so we were excited about that,” said Director of Child Nutrition Shelly Copeland. “Then, when we found out that we had also won the USDA award, that was really a surprise.”

The programs require districts to focus on quality menu offerings as well as educating students. For Fasano, that education component is a perfect fit with Spring ISD’s mission.

“My focus has always been on the food, on being consistent from kitchen to kitchen and having the best quality for our students,” Fasano said. “But now my focus is kind of shifting more toward showing the kids what we’re doing. I’m trying to really push more education about where the food comes from and about how it’s made.”

The department’s leaders have also been working to support school nutrition programs around Texas and across the country through their participation in the nationwide School Nutrition Association and regional affiliates like the Texas Association for School Nutrition. Copeland over the summer wrapped up a yearlong tenure as TASN’s president, and during SNA’s national conference in July she learned she had been awarded the association’s President’s Award of Achievement for a plan of action she developed during her time leading TASN.

“I’m just proud of being able to serve the state of Texas,” Copeland said, explaining that her plan of action was aimed at growing TASN’s membership and connecting its members to continuing education and professional development opportunities. “We’re always looking for our association to grow and improve, which in turn improves school nutrition departments across the state. It strengthens our program and what we can do for our students,” she said.

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