Alachua County High Schools Possible New Lunch Option: Food Trucks

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Hundreds flock for a food truck rally hosted at High Dive. The venue was the first to host a food truck rally in Gainesville in January 2013. Each event attracts about 2,000 to 3,000 people to the food truck culture
Hundreds walk among food trucks at High Dive’s food truck rally in April 2013 in downtown Gainesville. In response to the growing culture around food trucks, Alachua County high schools are set to get their own this fall. (Photo courtesy of Pat Lavery)

Food trucks seem to be popping up everywhere – and soon, they might even be in Alachua County schools.

Plans are underway on deciding whether to have a single truck rotating among the county’s seven high schools starting this fall.

“The food truck is the big craze right now, so we try and stay up with the times,” said Caron Rowe, Alachua County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services marketing and promotions specialist.

A main goal: to have students buying their lunch at school rather than bringing their own or not eating at all because they might not like the current options.

Students now receive a hot meal, a salad and a sandwich option daily.

The truck “would just give us a new way to reach that age group that definitely needs to be making sure that they’re getting proper nutrition,” Rowe said, later adding: “It’s going to be healthy alternatives with a new twist.”

Some Florida school districts, including Miami-Dade and Orange counties, have successfully implemented food trucks, but the trend is also happening nationwide.

“We have seen a big expansion of the use of food trucks in school meal programs,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the School Nutrition Association. “We’re hearing it’s been a really positive way for schools to increase participation.”

The school-run food truck — which will be bought, owned and maintained by the district — will meet USDA dietary guidelines, Rowe said. The district’s chef will work on menu development for the truck in conjunction with its registered dietician.

Although an official menu hasn’t yet been decided, Rowe noted one possibility: a Pan-Asian option that would allow students to customize a rice or noodle bowl with different toppings.

More ethnic recipes are being offered in school menus across the country, Pratt-Heavner said, because schools are mirroring restaurant trends to attract more students to school meal programs.

“I think kids in particular are looking for a lot of the things they’re familiar with when they go out to eat,” Pratt-Heavner said.

Like Orange County, the food truck will have certain days it will be at certain schools. It could go to one school for a week, for example, and another school the next, Rowe said.

The program will focus on high schools because their students are allowed to move out of the lunchroom and to where the truck would be parked.

But student meal plans won’t be accepted at the truck, Rowe said.

With the idea in its planning stages, the school district is looking for an affordable truck to buy.

About Laura Gomez

Laura is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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