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Interactive school lunch menu app

Friday, September 20, 2013542 views

What if, at the touch of a button, parents and students could not only see what was on the school lunch menu, but also access nutrition and allergy information for each itemall from a computer, smartphone, or iPad? Starting this year in Jordan School District, they can.

The district launched a new, interactive lunch menu this year, which gives patrons more information than the traditional PDF lunch menus. It tells a much broader story, Jordan District dietitian Katie Bastian said. And its a story that can also be accessed on the go with a free app for IOS and Android that can be downloaded on smartphones or iPads.

Scrolling over a food item will bring up nutrition information, like serving size, calories, carbs, sodium, etc., as well as a photo and description. For those with food allergies, there is the capability to filter the menu (under Filter Special Diets) and immediately see which items contain that food. Filters are provided for dairy, egg, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish allergies.

Bastian said the district was already looking into something to improve communication with parents about the food their kids have at school. So when a new company, Nutrislice, approached them last year with an interactive menu platform, they decided to give it a try. It just kind of all fell together, she said.

The district ran a pilot program with the menus in a few schools in May. Things went so well that they expanded to the year-round elementary schools over the summer to test it out before launching it district-wide when school started the last week of August.

Weve had a lot of positive feedback so far, Bastian said. She explained that people like the ease of the menus and the option to have it on their phones. This will allow families to make healthy meal choices in advance. The district hopes secondary students will use it as well.

Jordan is the first school district in Utah with the interactive menus, but Bastian said she believes at least two other Utah school districts are looking into it.

Not only does the interactive menu make it easier for parents to get nutrition information, it also allows the nutrition services to highlight their Farm to School program, which incorporates produce from local farms into school menus. This is the third year Jordan District has been doing the program.

This year district directors got trained to go out and work directly with farmers, instead of through a produce company, Bastian explained. Some of the farms they work with are Cornabys Specialty Foods (Spanish Fork), Schmidts Farm and Greenhouse (West Jordan) and Tagges Famous Fruit (Perry).

Though they are restricted to Utahs growing season, students have a lot to look forward to. So far they have had raspberries, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, corn on the cob and pears. If you have raspberries picked off the bush just yesterday the taste and the quality is just really good, Bastian said. And we love helping the local farmers in our economy, too. Theyve been really good to work with us.

To take a look at the new menus and download the app, on the Jordan School District website, click on Departments, then Nutrition Services (found under auxiliary services in the list).

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