DALLAS – For the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, finding out what new school lunch options military children living overseas are most likely to enjoy most can be a challenge—especially when the students in question live as far as 6,000 miles away.
To help the Exchange meet this challenge, six second- through seventh-graders from Advantage Academy’s North Duncanville campus came to the Exchange’s Dallas headquarters on March 2 for a special “taste-test” event at the Exchange’s on-site test kitchen.
“We have had several tastings at our headquarters with adult subjects, and the feedback we’ve received so far has been positive,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Luis Reyes, Exchange senior enlisted advisor. “However, a child’s palate is very different from a grown-up’s. It’s important we hear from the experts—the kids themselves—to evaluate how successful we could expect these offerings to be among military children living overseas.”
Through a suite of on-installation retail and service businesses, including convenience stores, restaurants and department stores, the Exchange supports every member of the military community, including Warfighters and their spouses and children, in all 50 states and 36 countries.
The Exchange’s school meal program provides school lunches below cost to Warfighters’ children at 78 Department of Defense (DOD) schools in Europe and the Pacific. The Exchange also operates seven overseas plants including four bakeries that provide whole-grain-rich baked goods—all made using American flour—to DOD school cafeterias overseas.
The feedback provided by Advantage Academy students will be weighed alongside survey results from overseas students and parents, as well as the results of a competitive bidding process among food vendors, to drive possible menu changes for the 2018 school year.
Brian Roberts, an Advantage Academy second-grader who participated in the event, has a military connection of his own, his father having served in the Navy. He said he enjoyed evaluating the various menu items—especially broccoli cheese soup, a dish he had never tried before.
“It makes us feel good that we’re helping kids all over the world be healthy,” Roberts said.
Advantage Academy Principal Donita White said the school was happy to have its students help the Exchange support military students living overseas, adding that the event helped drive home the importance of helping others—no matter how far away they may be—to the students.
“Food is a common language, and maybe if I like something, a kid in another country might like it, and I can help bring them a taste of home,” she said.
Nutritional standards for Exchange student meals are set by the Exchange’s registered dietitian in accordance with United States Department of Agriculture guidelines. Requirements include:
• All menu items are baked and never fried.
• Meals must have zero grams of trans fat.
• All breads, buns, dinner rolls, rice, macaroni, spaghetti pasta, tortillas and entrée breading are rich in whole grains (made with at least 50 percent whole grain flour).
• All meals served must include a fruit or vegetable. Students may choose from a variety of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables including carrots, broccoli, oranges and more.
• Meals adhere to nutrient standards for calories, sodium and fat for different age groups.
“It is critical we ensure our school meal options will be well-received by students living and attending school overseas,” Reyes said. “Leaving friends behind and moving to a foreign country can be stressful for military students—we want the food they eat at school to not just be healthy and nutritious, but have the flavor that will remind them of home and serve as a lifeline to America.”
— 30 —
Since 1895, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (Exchange) has gone where Soldiers, Airmen and their families go to improve the quality of their lives by providing valued goods and services at exclusive military pricing. As the 56th-largest retailer in the United States, Exchange earnings provided $2.4 billion in dividends to support military morale, welfare and recreation programs over the last 10 years. The Exchange is a non-appropriated fund entity of the Department of Defense and is directed by a Board of Directors. To find out more about the Exchange history and mission or to view recent press releases please visit our Web site at http://www.shopmyexchange.com or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ExchangePAO.