I Tasted School Food (and I Liked It)

Chesterfield County is aiming to change the reputation of the much maligned school lunch.

For the second year, Chesterfield hosted a Food Fair where more than 800 kids, parents and staff got to taste test foods to help determine next year’s menu. Each participant gets a form to score the foods as they sample things like orange-ginger glazed carrots, a fiesta wrap and pasta salad. Last year the Asian chicken salad, taco, Southern barbecue chicken salad and less-processed chicken tenders, received high marks and were served up at Chesterfield County school cafeterias this year.

I brought along my 8 year old (who eats school lunch at CCPS) and we taste tested together.

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So, what’d we like?

The fajita chicken bowl with cilantro lime rice, steamed corn and cheese was a hit with both me and my son.  Lettuce and salsa was served on the side which I added but my son did not.  My 8 year old said he would definitely eat this -annoying because I know I’ve served something with all these ingredients at home.  Also annoyingly, he loved the penne pasta with chicken and broccoli alfredo… he claims to both hate alfredo and broccoli so I found that interesting as well.

Other highlights: BBQ Flatbread (my son was full by this time but he would have loved it), Turkey and cheese wrap, Shaker salad, surprisingly well seasoned roasted cauliflower and a brownie made with spinach and broccoli. My son was also weirdly excited about the breadsticks so I would be remiss to leave them out of the list of highlights.

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Inspecting the brownie for signs of broccoli and spinach

 

There were definitely some fails. We passed on pretty much all of the Asian cuisine as it was a bit too sweet (both of us prefer savory meals to sweet ones). There was a prepackaged bagel-stuffed-with-something on the breakfast menu which even my 8 year old rejected saying something about it tasting like “plastic strawberry ice cream” (not sure what that means but he probably wasn’t far off).  Also, I think it’s fair to say cafeterias should just give up on spaghetti altogether.

But the food fair wasn’t just about the buffet. Stations were set up to help educate kids and parents about healthy eating, USDA school food standards, portion sizes and the county’s efforts to bring more locally grown produce into school cafeterias which I was really pleased to see.

My son and I had a great time, learned a lot and I think it was a fantastic event.  My son loved being able to impact the menu and as a parent it was nice to have a little insight on the choices offered at lunch time.  I applaud CCPS for taking the time and energy to host the event and I hope other districts and counties will take note.