COLUMBIA — Students holding umbrellas trickled into line Thursday in front of Rock Bridge High School to order applewood-smoked pulled pork or pulled chicken barbecue sandwiches from Columbia Public Schools' new food trailer.
"It is a lot better than the school food," sophomore LaTia Glasgow said as she took her first bite. "This is delicious."
The trailer, which will provide an alternative lunch for high school students, made its lunchtime debut Thursday. Some of the food comes from the school cafeterias, and some comes from an outside vendor.
Laina Fullum, the district's director of nutrition services, said the trailer will decrease the number of students using the cafeterias at the same time, which has been a growing problem since ninth-graders were added to Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools this year.
Freshmen and sophomores are not allowed to leave campus for lunch, and there are only two lunch shifts at Hickman and Rock Bridge for the whole student population, Fullum said.
"There’s nowhere to sit in that cafeteria," Rock Bridge sophomore Alon Powell said. "Everyone is sitting in the halls and stairways."
Last year, the district conducted a student survey to decide whether to allow younger students to leave for lunch, Fullum said. The district used the results of the survey to devise a plan to offer more options.
Students suggested offering food from outside vendors and adding more variety to the menu, Fullum said.
"We simply did the math and knew we would need to make changes to provide students options," she said.
Fullum said the idea for the mobile food trailer had been in the back of her mind since she saw the trend in food journals.
"My hope is that this will give students more options and a better opportunity to obtain a meal in a reasonable amount of time," Fullum said.
The district purchased the trailer at the beginning of this school year, received it in October and turned it into a kitchen equipped with an oven and refrigerator.
Fullum said that the trailer must meet nutritional needs for students, and that it must offer orange and green vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein.
The $2.60 Curbside Cuisine meal deal offered Thursday included a pulled pork or chicken sandwich, coleslaw, broccoli, carrots, fresh fruit, soy nuts and milk. Items can also be purchased individually.
Students at Rock Bridge were able to use their student lunch numbers to pay at the trailer, just as they would in the cafeteria.
"Basically what we want it to be is still a reimbursable meal for a child," Fullum said. "So that if we have free students or reduced students, they can get the same deal that they would inside, but yet it is a different scene than they would get from inside the cafeteria."
Rock Bridge seniors Carmen Stephens and Annorah Harris, who ordered from the trailer on Thursday, said the trailer is different and a faster option — even faster than going off campus.
While eating his lunch, Rock Bridge freshman Kyle Cade said he would like to see tacos at the food trailer.
The district is currently not looking at any other food options for the trailer, district nutritional services supervisor Karla Adeshakin said.
“We are going to see how this was received, and then we’ll see if we need to try something else or add additional things," Adeshakin said. "We just wanted it to be a fast option for the kids."
The trailer is scheduled to return to Rock Bridge for lunch Friday, as well as Dec. 11 through Dec. 13.
It is also set to visit Battle and Hickman high schools during the first two weeks of December, Adeshakin said.
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