VISTA — Maryland Elementary School joined school across the country taking part in National School Breakfast Week, which began with a kickoff celebration on March 5. The goal of the national campaign was to educate and raise awareness about how a healthy breakfast is available at school cafeterias.
Jamie Phillips, director of nutrition services for the Vista Unified School District, said the celebration was perfectly timed because they had just rolled out a new menu that very week. Menus are changed during the fall, winter and spring at the 17 elementary schools in the district.
“Our new breakfast menu just happened to fall on this day,” Phillips said. “It was nice and convenient because we had our new menu options, but we also had samples of what the new items will be for the next menu cycle.”
Phillips said National School Breakfast Week is a vital initiative and that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for students and research proves it.
“Students who have a breakfast actually have higher levels in math, and their achievement scores,” he said. “They’ll do better in standardized tests. Breakfast also improves and helps with concentration, memory and better alertness in class.”
Phillips said studies have also revealed that when kids eat breakfast, they have a better attendance rate compared to students who do not.
He said the school district aims to serve the highest quality food possible.
“We’re always coming up with new ideas,” he said. “I have a wonderful kitchen coordinator who tries all different kinds of recipes, and she tests them not only with myself but also other people in the kitchen. From there, we test them out with the students many times before we put them on the menu to make sure that it’s going to be a hit.”
The food served also meets the guidelines of the HealthierUS School Challenge as well as a nutrition standard set by the FDA.
Phillips said while they try to have fresh fruit daily in the cafeteria, the school district works hard for students to have a farm to table experience for both breakfast and lunch.
“That has been one of my goals this year,” he said. “And next year, to keep working on bringing fresher and healthier ingredients to the students.”
A few of the local farms the district has partnered with include Solutions Farms in Vista, Good Taste Farm in Fallbrook and Sage Mountain Farms in Anza.
Phillips said his team is concentrating on bringing more fresh fruits and vegetables, so they plan on issuing another request for proposal this spring to engage more local farm, which also helps the local economy.
“We’re always trying to prepare the freshest meal as possible to the students and ensure that they do have a great breakfast and lunch experience,” Phillips said. “At the end of every single menu cycle, we actually survey the students to get their feedback on what their favorite menu items were and also their least favorites. We’re always constantly trying to work with the students to give them the best possible meal.”