October 19, 2023 by HCDE Communications
Amidst the aroma of sizzling spices and the symphony of satisfied taste buds, students and nutrition directors embarked on a culinary adventure during Choice Partners’ 2023 School Nutrition & Product Expo this week.
The superhero-themed event, hosted at the Humble Civic Center, paid homage to the food service providers who help feed millions of Harris County students annually. Many business owners embraced this year’s theme, dressing up as their favorite iconic comic book superheroes to showcase their products.
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“All the costumes are so exciting, and we even brought in the Hulk and Spiderman for students to take pictures with, which has been a big hit,” said Choice Partners Assistant Director Trisha Prestigiacomo. “Along with our typical food options, we included food equipment and sanitation product companies this year to inspire service directors who may be looking to replace kitchen wares or purchase alternative cleaning supplies.”
Matt Antignolo is no stranger to the School Nutrition Expo, having attended numerous times during his nearly 30-year career. The executive director of child nutrition for the Fort Bend Independent School District attends to discover vendors that cater to the district’s diverse population of students and industry trends, such as plant-based and vegan offerings. Antignolo described his gratitude for the co-op, which helps simplify finding and partnering with new vendors.
“I love the expo because it’s a one-stop shop. Without it, we would be on our own reaching out to individual vendors,” Antignolo said enthusiastically. “Kids are eager to see menus that reflect what they are eating at home or healthy restaurants, and Choice Partners does a phenomenal job in keeping up with food industry trends.”
For students like Sophia Lloyd, a fourth grader from the Galena Park Independent School District, her school’s cafeteria provides access to nutritious meals that may not be available at home. Lloyd was all smiles as she explored varieties of American, Asian, and Mexican cuisine.
“The food was awesome, and I got to try a lot of things I’ve never had before,” Lloyd said with a smile. “There were pork chops, chicken nuggets, and fruit, but my favorite was still the French fries.”
Lloyd is one of more than 100 students from Harris County districts who taste-tested food items at the expo and provided feedback via an app. Nutrition directors use the students’ responses to evaluate food and beverage products being considered for their school cafeteria menus. Choice Partners also uses the feedback to plan for future food contracts, enabling the co-op to maintain its standard of service.
Choice Partners’ food division is one of the biggest in the state in regards to the number of members, vendors, and competitively bid contracts. Food is purchased annually by school districts in the Harris County area for millions of student lunches through Choice Partners cooperative contracts.
Choice Partners purchasing cooperative offers quality, legal procurement, and contract solutions to meet government purchasing requirements. For more information about Choice Partners and the buying power through the co-op, visit ChoicePartners.org.