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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A new food truck will soon roll into Columbia, but this one will just be for Columbia high schoolers.
Columbia Public Schools ordered a food trailer yesterday that will rotate among its high schools, said Laina Fullum, nutrition services director for the district. The trailer will have a fully equipped kitchen to sell barbecue pulled pork and pulled chicken. The food will meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for school lunches, and meals will be reimbursable through the free and reduced-price lunch program.
Nutrition services employees will staff the truck, Fullum said, and the department might try other foods in addition to barbecue at some point, The Columbia Daily Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1dPGBbQ ).
"We'll certainly take cues from what the students want," she said.
The truck — which cost about $30,000 from the district's nutrition services budget — will spend two days a week at Hickman High School, two at Rock Bridge High School and one at Battle High School. More lunch options are needed at Rock Bridge and Hickman, Fullum said, because the schools added ninth-graders this fall and restricted lunch to on-campus for students in grades 9 and 10. Plus, the cafeterias were already crowded, and students indicated on a survey last year that they were not able to get lunch in a timely manner, Fullum said.
"We wanted to get more options," she said.
Battle, the district's newest high school, doesn't yet have those problems at lunch. The district could change the truck's rotation in the future, but Fullum doesn't see lunch crowding becoming an issue at Battle. "They have such . a wonderful setup for service, and they have more shifts than the other schools," she said.
Hickman and Rock Bridge also are getting new kiosks that will help break up lines at lunch time, Fullum said, and the district is looking to bring in outside vendors to offer more food options. The challenge is finding vendors that meet USDA requirements such as having low-sodium or whole-grain products.
"It isn't easy," Fullum said.
Another new addition to school lunches at all grades is an allergy line of foods that Chef Brad Faith is creating.
"We're finding we have so many allergies in the district, we want to make sure kids are safe," Fullum said. "We don't think the quality of some of the allergy foods is all that great. We want to offer variety and want to offer good flavor as well as safety."
Gluten issues are probably the most common, Faith said, but he is trying to work on recipes that cover as many allergies as possible, including meals that are soy-free, gluten-free, corn-free and dairy-free.
It gets difficult, however, to meet all those requirements in one recipe, particularly removing corn and dairy. Faith has successfully created lasagna that is gluten-, soy- and corn-free. The pasta is made with rice lasagna noodles and is covered in tomato sauce Faith makes using canola oil instead of vegetable oil, which typically contains soybean oil.
Making items from scratch is key to avoiding allergens, Faith said, because food processed in factories might have come in contact with allergens, even if the food does not contain the allergen itself. Faith said he uses a vacuum seal for allergy-free food to eliminate the risk of airborne food illness.
Faith also has made a gluten-free pizza and pot roast. He said he hopes to create 10 items that are "virtually usable across the board in terms of allergies."
Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com