Children, parents get taste of new school menu items

It only took one bite for Yorkshire Elementary first-grader Virginia Baisden, 6, to decide that the beef gyro was a keeper. Her third-grade brother, Brett, 8, had to finish his before he made up his mind.

The two were making their way around Prince William’s annual Food Show, evaluating 25 school-menu items at Hylton High School in Dale City on Tuesday evening.

“They love seeing things on the menu and saying, ‘Oh, I tried that,'” said mom Patty.

Prince William puts on the show, after taking into account nutrition, cost and compatibility with school kitchen equipment, to help it decide on what vendors to buy its food from by deciding the most crucial factor — taste.

“There are 10 different people who make a chicken nugget,” said Serena Suthers, director of the school system’s food service. The 500 food samplers on Tuesday — students, parents and staff — were told simply to come hungry and give feedback on what tastes good.

Among the selections that could make it onto the school menu: cheddar fetti, peanut butter and jelly graham cracker sandwiches, clear flavored water, mandarin orange salad, cheese pizza and popcorn chicken (like a nugget).

“It’s always lots of fun. Dinner — I don’t cook,” said Terry Kenney, whose daughter Erica is an eighth-grader at Woodbridge Middle School. The two were sampling pizza. “Pizza A” was a new brand, Gilardi, going up against the current brand on the menu, Tony’s.

Tony’s tastes better, they said. In past years, it’s been hard to tell, Kenney said.

“Burn-your-mouth spicy,” said Cynthia Jones, tasting the spicy chicken breast, who daughter Michelle attends Montclair Elementary School. Maybe for high school students, she said.

“I really like those sweet potato pancakes,” said Daniel Floyd, 8, a third-grader at Neabsco Elementary School. He also liked the regular mini pancakes.

Regulars to this food show said last year the milkshakes were wonderful. This year, getting high marks from a lot of people was the sausage breakfast pizza and the spicy tuna pasta toss.

Some facts on Prince William school lunches: They go for $1.55 at the elementary school level and $1.60 at the middle school and high school level, Suthers said. The county serves an average of 31,000 lunches and 5,000 breakfast meals a day. Adults and athletes buying a second lunch pay $2.10 because those meals are not federally subsidized, she said.

Katrinecq Rose, coordinator for the school’s food-service department, said average calorie content for high school and middle school meals is 800 calories, while elementary school lunches run at nearly 700 calories. That’s a lot of carbohydrates and with less than 30 percent of the calories from fat, she said.

A second food-tasting session will be held Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hylton. Some taster slots could still be available: Call (703) 791-7314 to make a reservation.

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