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Healthy Eating Is A Lifelong Passion For Dallas ISD's Former Food Services Leader

Dora Rivas retired last month as Executive Director of Dallas ISD's Food and Child Nutrition Program. Her interest in healthy eating began when she was a child and her father was diagnosed with diabetes.

Dora Rivas made national headlines for her efforts to transform the school lunch menu. Under her watch as executive director of Food and Child Nutrition Services in Dallas ISD, students were given healthier food options.

First Lady Michelle Obama took notice, calling Rivas “amazing” during a stop in Dallas and inviting her to the White House. Rivas retired from the district last month and is going to oversee child nutrition programs in Europe and Asia with the Army Air Force Exchange System.

Interview Highlights: Dora Rivas ...

... On her push for healthier meals for kids:

"This has really been a lifelong effort. When I was very young, my father was a diabetic while I was in middle school. And I remember going to the doctor with him, listening to all of the different food fads, thinking that you could cure diabetes. But at the same time watching my mother just serve him healthy foods and  follow the dietician's advice. So very early on, I saw how nutrition impacted his health and I just always felt like we needed to start earlier teaching children to eat well and hopefully avoid some of the problems that resulted from poor nutrition ... "

... On why some kids aren't eating healthier food choices offered in the school cafeteria:

"Many of our children in their homes are not offered or exposed to a lot of the fresh fruits and vegetables that are offered in the school. And so it is a challenge to try new foods. At Dallas ISD, we had a number of schools that implemented school gardens and that have strong coordinated school health programs ... All of these things together begin to make it easier for a child to taste and understand why it's good for them."

On the future of the food program in Dallas ISD:

"One of the things that I have been very proud of is being able to recruit and bring to Dallas ISD some very talented professionals. I have known and worked with the directors that are there and the new executive director Margaret Lopez ... very talented individuals, very passionate, very dedicated, and so there's no doubt in my mind that they will continue to move the district food and child nutrition forward ... "

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.