School lunch menu connoisseurs

A group of Beaver Creek students taste test cheese-filled breadsticks.

A group of Beaver Creek KTC students taste test cheese-filled breadsticks.

When it comes to school lunch menus, who better to select the items than the kids themselves?

In Johnston and in schools across the state, students are being tapped for their taste buds, specifically for taste-testing potential new menu items for school lunch. While it’s not a new practice, the items introduced to students are constantly changing to meet nutritional standards and offer variety.

LaRae Doll, JCSD Director of Nutrition, explained the process of introducing new menu items.

Two Beaver Creek students taste test chicken patties.

Two Beaver Creek KTC students taste test chicken patties.

“Schools are required to fully evaluate all foods sold to kids,” said Doll. “Foods and beverages must meet nutritional standards for fat, sodium and calories. Bread items must contain 51 percent whole grains, and much more. All foods should be affordable and most importantly – students must love them!  That is why students taste tests at all grade levels are so important when deciding which food items the district will purchase.”

Once the items for taste-testing have been selected by the state, school districts are required to have students select their choice. Doll said JCSD Nutrition Services has worked with all grade levels to get student input. Most recently, they asked Beaver Creek Elementary KTC kids to make some very important choices between two types each of chicken patties, pulled pork, and cheese-filled bread sticks. The choices are presented on different colored plates – one black, one white, for example – and students are asked to put the plate of their preferred choice in a bin, while their other plate goes in the garbage. The results are tallied and sent into the state by Doll.

“It’s very helpful to have the kids do the testing,” Doll said. “Because we want them to eat their meals, we need to offer food choices that taste good to them. They are always honest in their feedback and enthusiastic about trying new foods.”

The school district conducts taste tests periodically throughout the school year. There have been about 12 different taste tests at JHS this year. The menu items tested most recently, if approved by the State, will appear on lunch menus next year.