Orange County, Fla., public schools have adopted the philosophy that the foods they serve should be kid-tested and kid-approved.
For the sixth consecutive year, school officials played host to an annual food show, Jan. 11, where about 200 students got to try and rate menu items, said Lisa McCoy, who helps with public relations for the Orlando, Fla.-based school district.
“It’s been huge,” she said. “If you really offer what they want, they’ll eat it.”
That, in turn, reduces waste.
Each school chooses a few participants. All the district asks is that they represent its overall demographics, said Kern Halls, district area manager.
This year, the district added fruits and vegetables and invited parents to attend.
Halls said having parents participate may help dispel their negative opinions of what school lunches used to be decades ago.
Altogether, about 30 vendors offered 100 produce and non-produce items, all of which meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new school lunch guidelines and the district’s budgetary requirements.
The products also have to be new and not have been sampled before at the show, Halls said.
Students’ votes will go toward developing menus for the 2013-14 school year.
Halls said the show is a hit with the vendors, who can solicit direct feedback from students.
“The vendors love it. They always try to use us as a reference,” Halls said.
If the quick disappearance of product was any indication, the fruits and vegetables drew rave reviews.
“All of the fruits and vegetables were gone, but the other vendors still had stuff left over,” McCoy said.
The district’s Food and Nutrition Services serves about 27 million meals and snacks annually.