Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Chesterfield schools face tough food critics - kids
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Apr 8, 2014, 14:27

JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Tammy Ballard, and her children, Evan Ballard and Zaria Young, who attend C.C. Wells Elementary School in Chester, get food during taste test event at Thomas Dale High School.
CHESTERFIELD Banana bread, sausage, egg and cheese sliders, and Asian chicken salad. These were just a few of the foods that got rave reviews at a recent taste test for new offerings at school.

But they werent just to make kids a little happier, they were also to get them to eat a little healthier.

Hot and cold foods were served at stations inside the cafeteria at Thomas Dale High School on April 2. Each level of school elementary through high school was given a different colored survey to fill out to rate items and to leave comments.

Some of the foods offered were a comparison between old and new versions of the same food. Chunks of chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs were offered in different colored containers so that people can judge which was better.

Many new foods were being considering for next year, and school officials wanted to see if they would be well received. They included maple-glazed sweet potatoes, kale, zucchini bread, apple churro and Asian cole slaw with Mandarin oranges.

Kabree Kenney, who attends Enon Elementary School, typically avoids school lunches but said she liked the veggie dip, pizza, banana bread, sausage egg and cheese slider, and white cheddar popcorn.

I like some of it. I think its better than what they usually serve, she said.

Kyler Kenney, who goes to Elizabeth Davis Middle School, said he likes the pizza offered here better than what he typically gets at school. Its actually sweeter, he said.

Robert Custalow, who attends Chalkley Elementary School, tries a piece of pizza.
Tammy Ballard, the mother of Evan Ballard and Zaria Young, who attend C.C. Wells Elementary School in Chester, said she likes a lot of the food being tested.

Im hoping a lot of them make the menu because the kids are enjoying it also. The different variety, I really like it, she said.

Ballard said it could encourage kids to eat healthier foods.

My son, hes a real picky eater, he actually liked the mushroom burger. He liked the sesame kale, which surprised me, she said.

But other kids said that although they liked some foods offered during the taste test, they dont expect their eating habits to change.

I dont like vegetables. They make us get it at school. Ill get them but I am going to throw them away, said David Williams, 11, who goes to Tomahawk Creek Middle School.

Theres certain stuff hes going to refuse to try, said his mom, Cheryl Williams.

Hunter Custalow, who attends Manchester Middle School, said pretty much everything has been good, but there were a few exceptions.

The pickled beets, I didnt really like those, he said.

But he said he would be really disappointed if they dont have the Asian chicken next year.

If they dont have Asian chicken, Im pretty much not even going to eat lunch, he said.

He also said the carrot roasted with olive oil and dill were a lot better than the carrots they serve now that are just steamed.

Mom Michele Custalow said the food fair was a really good idea, but not just because it improves school lunches.

Sandy Stokes, a nutritionist with Chesterfield County Public Schools, talks to visitors to the taste test event.
She said her son Robert, who attends Chalkley Elementary School, has sensory and autism spectrum issues, and one of his issues is food. He takes the same lunch to school every day and has gotten therapy to get him to try new foods.

He only eats like four foods, so my idea of coming here tonight with him is if he likes one thing out of all that food, that will be one new food he will eat, she said.

He showed interest in several of the foods, such as the banana bread, chicken filet and white cheddar popcorn.

I can mark it down and recreate it at home, she said.

I want you to make the banana bread all the time, he said.

Sandy Stokes, a nutritionist with Chesterfield county schools, said this is part of an effort to not just offer healthy food, but to make sure kids were actually eating it.

Weve always had a pretty nutritional meal and definitely value-wise but unless the kids are eating it, you are not getting the nutrition in them, Stokes said.

Stokes said they looked at what kids were bringing in for their lunches and did a price and nutritional comparison.

She said on average the school lunches were by far more healthy and were also much cheaper. The school lunches cost $1.95 while the average cost of packing a lunch is $2.66.

Kids dont really like to eat plain vegetables, and we really cant add butter and salt and all those things because of the nutritionals, so we try to find some things to add that gave it a little bit more taste, Stokes said.

Stokes said only about 65 percent of students take advantage of school lunches. The participation rate tends to be lower in more affluent areas of the county, she said.

During the food fair, the schools were also showing off their new Nutraslice program, which allows kids and parents, to look at what is in the school meals and nutritional information on their computer, tablet or smartphone.

Stokes said this is particularly useful for those who have food allergies.

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