Garden to Café
AISD is taking an important leadership role in the school garden movement by partnering with students, community members, teachers and administrators to develop a Garden to Café program that extends the lessons learned in the garden to the school café. Garden to Café is about serving healthy, fresh, garden-grown foods to students through school meal programs.
The AISD Garden to Café Program provides guidelines for schools to help gain approval to serve produce that is grown on campus. Schools requesting this approval will be required to designate a Garden Leader, who will follow the necessary standards and protocols to ensure the garden meets health regulations.
Ensuring the safety of the food supply is critical to student health. School and retail food facilities regulated under the Texas Food Establishment Rules are required to obtain their food from an approved source. Schools requesting to serve food grown in their gardens in the café will be subject to evaluation as outlined in the AISD School Garden to Café Conditions for Use of Garden-Grown Produce in School Kitchens.
Gardens will be reviewed on:
- Water quality
- Protection from contamination
- Sanitary practices
- Harvesting procedures
Campuses requesting to participate in the Garden to Café program can begin the process by submitting the following document:
Please allow 1-2 weeks for processing and approval.
Learn more ways to use school garden-grown foods in the Austin Area School Garden Collaborative Harvest Guide. The guide provides schools with alternative options to Garden to Café.
Diced & Sliced Student Culinary Competition
The Diced & Sliced student culinary competition is a partnership between AISD Food Service and Career & Technical Education (CTE) departments. The competition provides middle school culinary students with an opportunity to work together to create unique recipes. Students compete at the school and district level, with the winning dish featured on future school lunch menus. Past competitions include smoothies, tacos, pasta, and burritos.
No matter where or how meals are served, AISD is committed to providing foods with the highest quality ingredients. AISD began implementing a clean label initiative in 2015 and currently follows the “Ingredient Guide for Better School Food Purchasing'' by School Food Focus. The guide is a science-based tool that highlights unwanted ingredients to eliminate, and those to watch out for.
Local and Sustainable Purchasing
AISD makes it easy for students to eat locally and sustainably. School menus regularly feature local foods such as New World Bakery bread, Fiesta Tortillas, and Texas grown fruits and vegetables.
AISD is the first district in Texas to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP). The goal of the GFPP is to improve regional food systems by utilizing meaningful purchasing standards in five key categories:
- Local economies
- Environmental sustainability
- Valued workforce
- Animal welfare
AISD is aligned with the City of Austin’s zero waste goal to reduce landfill waste by 90% by 2040. Through thoughtful procurement and operations, staff training, and various initiatives, we are committed to reducing waste in our kitchens and cafeterias.
Food Service Waste Reduction Strategies:
- We use an offer versus serve method allowing students to select the foods of their choice to complete their meal. Per Department of Agriculture guidelines, pre-K students must take a set-plate meal.
- Data compiled through our school nutrition software allows for efficient planning, ordering, and preparation, significantly reducing kitchen waste.
- Through increased scratch cooking, we can control how much food is ordered and prepared.
- We offer a minimal number of pre-packaged foods. For foods that are not prepared in-house, such as burritos and chia bars, we request that the producers package and ship these items in bulk.
- Cafés offer fresh produce using a self-serve model when possible.
- We are expanding the use of reusable trays, serving containers, and cutlery when possible. If reusables are not possible due to staffing or equipment issues, we prioritize using compostable products. (No styrofoam trays here!)
- We compost in all kitchens.
- We offer bulk milk at modernized campuses.
- Share tables provide a space in the cafeteria where students may return any whole fruit or unopened milk, yogurt, or cereal. Students may help themselves to any items placed on the table. Any remaining foods are reviewed following health department guidelines and if safe to do so, they are served at the next meal service.
While these practices may vary or look different across the district due to operational, equipment, staffing, or supply chain issues, we work closely with our teams at each campus to identify opportunities to reduce waste and be more sustainable.