During the 2016-17 school year, Alabama's 1,495 public schools served 84 million hot, healthy meals. At the beginning of this school year, Tandy Norris, child nutrition program coordinator for Athens City Schools, decided to take the meals in her lunch program up a notch.
Thanks to YumYummi and AllerTrain, she is able to do just that.
YumYummi is an interactive app for both Apple and Android devices that allows users to check school menus for allergens. Parents and students select the allergens they wish to avoid. If an item on the menu contains that allergen, an icon appears, warning the student or parent.
"That way, parents can know day-to-day what their child can and cannot have," Norris said.
But the app is not just for students with allergies. Users can access full-color, weekly menus, including ingredients and other nutrition information. Perhaps the best part of the app is that it allows kids their meals on a scale of 1-5.
This helps nutrition coordinators like Norris know what the students like and dislike.
“It helps us plan for the future by guiding our menu plans and helping us know what supplies to buy,” Norris said. “We are going to have a big push in the next few months to get all of our kids to download YumYummi.”
Certified allergy aware
Inside the cafeteria, parents of students with allergies can relax a little more knowing all of the workers who handle their child's food have been certified with AllerTrain.
AllerTrain is an accredited training program that seeks to help child nutrition workers better serve children with food allergies, celiac disease and food intolerance. The certification course does this by teaching staff members how to prepare a cafeteria to prevent reactions and recognize symptoms of a reaction if they occur.
"Because we deal with allergens all the time, I thought this program would heighten our staff's awareness," Norris said. "I really think they already had the knowledge but now they have the certification."
Everyone associated with the city school's nutrition program took the 30-question exam, including managers, kitchen staff, cashiers and lunchroom substitutes. Norris is happy to report a 100-percent pass rate.
“Now I feel as though are staff is better trained than ever to meet the needs of our students with allergies,” Norris said.
Norris is a registered dietician who has served as the program coordinator since 2004. She estimated that about 5 percent of Athens City students have a food allergy of some kind, with symptoms ranging from life-threatening to minor.