Manassas Journal Messenger 03-30-01


students get taste of school


Diane Freda



Some of the most discriminating diners in Prince William County reviewed

a new menu at their favorite eating establishment Thursday night. It was

the school cafeteria.

The 11th annual Prince William County elementary school food show drew

450 people to Hylton High School in Woodbridge.

Not even pouring rain could deter school kids, parents and teachers

from turning out to taste the latest in cafeteria cuisine while gettting

a free meal.

On the menu to be graded were grilled cheese snacks, popcorn chicken,

stuffed crust pizza, jambalaya, battered apple crescents and fruit and yogurt

parfaits. In all, 25 items got the taste test, as serious-looking parents

and children paused between tables, paper plates in hand, to scribble their

comment on a clipboard.

“I don’t think they had any taste tests when I was in school,”

said parent John Mead of Woodbridge. “This jambalaya is pretty good.”

Nine-year-old Eddie Hatcher of Woodbridge gave the popcorn chicken,

small chunks of chicken dipped in batter and baked, a big thumbs up.

“It’s nice and spicy,” he said.

The battered apple sticks were to die for, according to Shawn Cromartie,

a 10-year-old from Woodbridge. An obvious sweets lover, the low fat shake

was another hit with him.

“I liked everything,” said 11-year-old Brittany Speight of

Dale City. “I came to see if there was anything good.” Most children

said yes, in one of the easiest crowds a menu planner could ever have.

Even the prepackaged items were subject to scrutiny. “What would

you like?” asked one cafeteria worker. “I’ll have orange or raspberry

fruit sherbet.” Whatever the taster wanted they got, in a seemingly

endless buffet. There was tropical fruit salads, frozen desert bars, goldfish,

strudel sticks and stone ground corn sticks. Even broccoli salad showed

up on the menu.

All the food selections were new, said Serena Suthers, director of food

services for the schools. The ones that receive the highest ratings will

be included on the fall menu. “We like to get input from our customers,”

she said. “All year long we’re working on next year’s menu.”

If the entree is something the schools are buying off the market – that

is, not a commodity food provided by the government – Suthers said she likes

to get a 90 percent approval rating before adding them. For vegetables,

the requirement is only 70 percent, because they are a harder sell. Last

year it was crispy chicken that stole the show, she said. This year it may

be popcorn chicken.

Pizza, pizza and more pizza were also favorites. There was stuffed pizza,

pan pizza and sausage breakfast pizza. The latter caught 11-year-old Tara

Resto’s eye. “It was extremely good,” she said.

Lest parents worry nutrition is being neglected, Suthers said all meals

fulfill one third of the recommended daily requirement for nutrients such

as protein, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

The final review was that for $1.55, a school lunch is still a steal.