Trays of healthy lunch items lined buffet-style tables in the Fees Middle School cafetorium Friday afternoon as a group of Tempe students and employees tried new items for next year’s menu.
Armed with paper and pencils, students went down the line sampling everything from chicken corn dogs to meatless sausage. While some foods — like Eggo Cereal Maple Bowls — were a hit with students, other foods — such as the reducedfat “superdoughnut” — got mixed reactions.
“It’s kind of good and bad,” said 11-year-old Hafsa Shah. “Good because it’s different than other doughnuts, but bad because it’s not like the ones kids like.”
It’s the first time in a long time that students were invited to the taste-testing, which is done every year in the Tempe Elementary School District. Vendors set up items for school employees to rank in flavor and health content and then the district chooses what to buy.
Barbara Savastio, nutrition service director for the district, said students were pulled into the mix after the Arizona Department of Education rolled out its new nutrition standards earlier this week, which are set to begin in July.
“My thoughts (on the taste of the food) really aren’t important because the students are our customers,” Savastio said.
The challenge most manufacturers face is reducing the fat and sodium content in food items to meet new state nutrition standards, she said.
Middle school students were on hand to try out items for the reason that they will be affected the most during the next school year, she said. The new standards apply to vending machines and a la carte items, which few elementary schools have; high schools and charter schools were exempted from the standards.
Smaller bagels and cream cheese were on hand for the Fees students to try.
“Middle school students love huge bagels,” Savastio said.
“Now you can’t serve 4-ounce” sizes, she said. The new bagels will be a fraction of the size they are now.
Results of the most popular items selected in the taste-testing should be tallied by late Monday and bids will go out to vendors later this month.
• Cheezee Bread
• Eggo Cereal Maple Bowl
• Apple Pocket Turnover
• Pepperoni Pizza Calzone