New School Lunch Items Get High Ratings at Taste Testing


Tropical fruit sides and sweet potato stuffing are among the Department of Education’s new school lunch offerings.

A large sampling of school lunch menu items, from tropical fruit sides to a Creole chicken entrée, got high marks from the hundreds of students, parents and government officials that tested them out recently at a tasting at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School.

Hosted by School Food Authority Director Esther Lynch-Izaak, the testing was meant to give Department of Education’s leadership and State Special Nutrition Office a first-hand look at what exactly would be hitting the cafeterias once school starts in September.

Getting more involved in the school lunch process, from testing to ordering, helps keep DOE officials  more aware of what the students’ issues and concerns are when it comes to what is being served, explained DOE Acting Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory, who also participated in the testing.

Frett-Gregory has also continued to push for more accountability within the program, and has tasked the territory’s School Food Authority and Nutrition Program officials with turning around the public’s perception of the taste and quality of specific commodity items, including a sweet potato puree, a Creole chicken (or boil-in-the-bag) entrée and other dishes that were surveyed during the testing.

Proper training for the schools’ kitchen staffs, particularly in the area of food preparation, is also a top priority, according to Frett-Gregory.

Responding to the concerns, chefs from Chartwell’s Dining Services, contracted by DOE to streamline the schools’ kitchens, were also on hand during last week’s testing to prepare some of the dishes, which all received high marks from the participants surveyed.

The Creole chicken — which was prepared by the chef by removing the contents and putting it in the oven — was a clear favorite, along with a local stuffing dish made from the potato puree, and a new peanut butter and banana wrap.

“What we really wanted to do is show the public that we are bringing in good, nutritional products,” Special Nutrition Programs Director Angela Frett said after the event. “This testing allowed us to get the feedback we needed from our clients — the students — and now we really have to be responsible for training our staff in following the recipes and preparing the dishes so that they not only taste and look good, but meet our federal nutritional guidelines.”

While the adults — including parents, DOE officials and representatives from the offices of Senators Janette Millin-Young and Tregenza Roach — participated in the survey, more than 200 students from local summer camps were also served at the event, with their feedback recorded by School Food Authority director Esther Lynch-Isaak.