Young people move through buffet-style lines sampling foods Friday as part of a survey process to help officials determine Clayton County Public Schools’ breakfast and lunch menus for 2014-15. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)
RIVERDALE — Some 60 school nutrition managers filed through the buffet-style lines, sampling the eats.
Clayton County Public Schools Nutrition Services Department hosted its first tasting symposium Friday. The event also featured nearly 250 students from about a dozen schools.
Nutrition Services coordinator Ingrid Farahdel helped organize the district-wide tasting held in the Riverdale Elementary cafeteria.
Represented were students from Lovejoy, Mundy’s Mill and Riverdale high schools and Forest Park, Lovejoy, North Clayton and Rex Mill middle schools.
Taste-testers included pupils from Suder, Smith and Riverdale elementary schools as well as Mount Zion Primary, said Farahdel, who also counted 30 culinary students from Drew High.
Organizers invited 10 area food brokers to showcase a specific whole-grain foods menu. The menu included whole grain biscuits, pizza, snacks, rice, breaded chicken nuggets and turkey and chicken tacos.
Students and staff also sampled varieties of 100 percent fruit juice as they passed through lines and took surveys, documenting their preferred foods and food vendors.
Farahdel said the surveys will play a part in the department’s determining which food brokers to contract with next school year. She said pricing will be another component of that decision-making.
School nutritionmanager Karen Seay brought a small group of North Clayton Middle students with her to taste the foods. Eighth-grader Jordyn Benton was partial to the honey biscuits.
“It’s cool,” said Benton, 13. “We get to pick food that we actually like eating.”
Benton said she enjoys the occasional pepperoni pizza but is open to trying healthier foods. She said also likes chewing on broccoli and “eating stuff that comes from the ground.”
Seay said eating habits have less to do with the maturity of students’ pallets and more to do with habits started at home.
“If they’re not eating it at home, it’s hard for them to start,” said Seay. “If they’re not introduced to eating healthy foods, they’ll never know.”
The nutrition services department plans to host a symposium each year to get the pulse of students and faculty on preferred healthy menu items.
“They’re our customers so their feedback is very important,” said Farahdel, who hopes to be able to expand the taste-testing next year.
Farahdel said the nutrition services staff will review the results of the symposium surveys, coupled with food broker bids, and will decide later this spring on potential menus for the 2014-15 school year.