School lunch taste test: KCK students, parents to get a preview of next year's cafeteria fare

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Diet and nutrition impact a child's ability to learn. So school meals play a critical role in the educational process.

But nutritious foods aren't always popular with students, sometimes because of their taste, and sometimes because they're unfamiliar.

Now the Kansas City, Kansas Public School District wants to give kids and parents a say in what they want to see in their school cafeterias.

Schlagle High School will host "Taste of 500" Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. The food tasting fair allows students to sample dozens of food items, and then provide feedback on the taste and quality.

Kids from grades 2-11, their parents and district administrators will evaluate the food using a simple scoring technique. Positive responses will be considered for upcoming school menus.

"We serve on average 11,000 breakfast meals and approximately 16,225 lunch meals each school day," said Karla Robinson, director of Nutritional Services. "Sometimes it's difficult to find foods that are nutritional and also popular with our students."

This school year, new nutrition guidelines set by the USDA required school meals to take on a new look. Some of the requirements included boosting the offering of whole grain-rich foods, decreasing sodium, providing zero Trans fat products, and ensuring that students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day.

In addition to these USDA requirements, Robinson instituted a "Farm to School" program, incorporating fresh, farm-grown produce into school meals. And to accommodate middle and high school students who prefer vegetarian choices, she added menu items such as veggie burgers, hummus wraps and vegetarian soup.

This school year, KCKPS also started a Breakfast in the Classroom program in 15 of its schools. The free program provides breakfast to students in their first hour classroom. While all KCKPS schools serve breakfast, studies have shown that not all students take advantage of it because they don't arrive in time to eat, or they don't always make the effort to get to the cafeteria before school.

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