The Story of a... Public School Nutritionist

Lora Gilbert, 54, Orange County Public Schools’ director of food and nutrition services, caters to a lot of customers with demanding tastes.



Photo By Mark Losh Photography

The school system serves about 136,000 meals per day, and students have a great deal of influence on their cafeterias’ lunch menus. Students participate in food-focus groups and offer recipes and ideas for food items.
 
“When we get an idea for a menu item we try and develop it into a plate,’’ Gilbert says. “Then we bring it back to that person, whether it is a student, parent or food service manager, and ask, ‘Is this what you meant?’ We take their comments and test the dish in five or six schools. That’s where we have to have a 70 percent acceptance rate.”

If the item makes the grade, it’s sent out to vendors for pricing and evaluated for nutrition. Next stop: students’ plates.

Carbonated beverages and fried foods are not served. That means no French fries. “We went back to the high schools, asking what they’d like in place of the fries, and they said ‘salads’!”

“Yes, we serve a lot of pizza, but it’s part skim, low-fat mozzarella and low-fat pepperoni.” The county also pays 0.2 percent more per biscuit just to get ones that don’t contain transfats.

Is your child brown-bagging? “Because we’ll save you with your grocery bill.’’ High school and middle school students can get lunch for $2.50. Elementary students pay only $1.86.

The district sponsors Iron Chef competitions at schools, based on the popular Food Network show. “Kids are put on teams and they have to make a quick, healthy meal in 20 minutes.” The popularity of the contests has led schools to offer a Build-Your-Own-Burrito Day.

“We sent water pouches out for an FCAT snack in 2007. Once the pouches were punched with straws, they became water cannons.’’ That snack idea was immediately scrapped.

After a petition from some students requesting more vegetarian offerings, Gilbert’s department added veggie burgers, pasta with marinara sauce and veggie wraps, among other items. Peta2, a youth animal rights group, has ranked Orange in the top five districts in the country when it comes to providing vegetarian options.
 
Gilbert visited an elementary school the first day that corn on the cob was served there. “As I began explaining that corn came from a plant in the ground, one little girl immediately spit hers out, saying, ’I’m not eating something that came out of the dirt!’ ”

Sushi in the lunch room? “California rolls are very popular’’ with elementary school students.

Edit Module
Want to read the whole issue? Download and read this issue and others on Magzter.

Add your comment:
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags

Guides & Resources

Guide to Private Schools 2016

Our searchable annual database will help you chart an educational course for your family.

2015 Premier Doctors

Our annual inventory of Central Florida’s Finest Doctors with details on hundreds of physicians in dozens of specialties.

Orlando's Top Chiropractors of 2015

Check out our searchable 2015 list of some of the best chiropractors in the Orlando area.

Premier Veterinarians 2015

Check out our searchable 2015 list of some of the best vets in the Orlando area.

Choosing a Graduate School

Programs at UCF and Rollins College

Premier Realtors

Let Orlando's best realtors help you find your dream home!

Wedding Resource Guide

Find the best wedding vendors in Orlando.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

MoreRecent Blog Posts

V-Day the O-Town Way

25 Valentine’s Day Celebrations in the Orlando area

Orlando Weekend Happenings: Feb 5 to 7

Find the best events in and around Orlando for the weekend.

Cat-puccino, Anyone?

Get your feline fix at one of Central Florida's soon-to-open cat cafes.

Orlando Weekend Happenings: Jan 29 to 31

Find the best events in and around Orlando for the weekend.

Arts Beat: Visual Force

The 'Women of Vision' photography exhibit at Orlando Museum of Art offers a stunning emotional journey.
Edit Module