In the quest to fight childhood obesity while giving students healthy and attractive meal choices in schools, the Tullahoma City Schools Nutrition Department now has a new ally in Nutrislice.
The nutrition staff has officially stepped into the 21st century with the nutrition app that allows students and parents alike to see just what food options are available in all seven Tullahoma schools.
The app, which is available as a free download in both the Google Play store and the Apple Store, allows users to see a comprehensive profile of all the food options offered in all seven Tullahoma City Schools cafeterias for breakfast and lunch, including nutritional information and photos of the meals.
Users can also specify certain food allergens, such as shellfish or tree nuts, and see what food options they still have available while eliminating those allergens.
Complete nutritional information, including calories, carbohydrate, fat, protein and sodium are available to view on each individual food item, making meal planning for those with specific dietary needs simple and interactive.
According to Tullahoma City Schools Nutrition Director Angela Cardwell, the use of Nutrislice is a multi-year effort on her part. She first looked into the program about three years ago, she told The News.
“It had a totally rad concept, great vision and ambitious promises,” she said of the app. However, there were some hindrances that prevented her from using it until now.
“It lacked functionality for us and had zero compatibility with my current vendor inventory database to collect and utilize the content efficiently,” she said.
That changed within the last year, Cardwell said. Nutrislice adapted its platform to work with the in-house inventory program, called Mosaic, meaning all the food information input to Mosaic by Field Supervisor Jennifer Myers could be utilized by Nutrislice.
Mosaic is, according to Cardwell, what her team uses to create menus for each of the schools.
“It is very user-friendly and a program we use daily to tweak recipes, add new ones and add new items we bring on our food bid,” Cardwell said. “The software gives us all we need to effectively build daily [and] weekly menus and communicates immediately if we are not meeting guidelines so we can make appropriate adjustments.”
By becoming compatible with Mosaic, Nutrislice now allows the nutrition staff to upload all the food information, including photos, into the app, which then allows anyone who downloads it to see what’s on the menu for their preferred school.
One aspect Cardwell was excited to use was the image portion of the app.
While the nutrition department has been active on Facebook, displaying trays of colorful and attractive foods on a regular basis to show off the kitchen staff’s decorative skills, Nutrislice now allows the department to share even more food photos with those who attend school in Tullahoma.
The app did come with a pre-selected photo library for certain food items, but Cardwell said she wanted to be more transparent in what her staff was offering to the students of Tullahoma.
“I felt it was best for my team to be as real and authentic with our community as possible,” she said.
By allowing people to see actual images of the food provided in each cafeteria, Cardwell said people could be more comfortable knowing just what their children are consuming on school grounds.
“Everyone eats with their eyes,” she said. “We need to show them what we provide. I spend a good portion of time on social media promoting education and awareness for our department. Posting real pictures of food we make is a super important standard, and we set the bar high.”
It also allows Cardwell the opportunity to show off the skills of her culinary staff.
“I spend valuable time training my staff how to build trays and create visually stimulating food serving lines and trays,” she said. “[Nutrislice] offers full access to share all our hard work and dedication to our student body.”
Exploring new tastes
Cardwell is also hoping to introduce some students to new foods and expand their palates one bite at a time.
“For most of our littles [elementary students], our goal is to introduce foods they may never have had the courage to try or haven’t seen before,” she said.
By having images of the food available for students to see on the app, it helps create connections between titles of certain dishes and what they might look like.
“Being read the title of the food by the teachers didn’t help them know what exactly they are ordering,” Cardwell said. “Nutrislice now makes it all available to our students each day to visualize what choices they have. We hope this encourages more participation and eagerness to branch out of the chicken nugget [and] pizza comfort zone of pretty much all children.”
Keeping in compliance
Not only does Nutrislice offer visual confirmation of food choices, having the nutritional information available is a powerful resource for students and parents who want to keep specific food allergens in mind when navigating school food.
“Our nursing staff is tickled with this launch because they can now print daily carb counts for their diabetic students that need to be monitored,” Cardwell said as an example. “Parents can highlight allergens to avoid, and the menu will populate all items still available to be consumed safely for that child.”
By giving parents and students this tool, Cardwell said she hoped to promote more self-education about what foods are offered in schools.
“My hope is that this program can help educate our students and aid them towards being self-sufficient and protect themselves from food allergens or any medical needs pertaining to food,” she said. “With this app available on all computers and Chromebooks districtwide, students can learn to track their specific nutritional needs on their own. Self-awareness and protection is vital for everyone.”
The Nutrislice app is available for free both in the Google Play Store for Android phones and the App Store for iPhones.
The information can also be accessed through the TCS Mobile App, Cardwell said.
Nutrislice can also be accessed online without a smartphone by visiting the website tullahomacityschools.nutrislice.com. There is also web access on the Tullahoma City Schools website under the nutrition section under the school menus information, Cardwell added.
For more information on the school menus or nutrition information, visit Tullahoma City Schools Nutrition Department on Facebook or Cardwell’s Twitter account @ngcardwell82.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.