By Casey Choung
At first glance, the cafeteria seems to be going about its business normally. Some students are complaining about their latest test grades, others are looking at the news on their phones. But something seems amiss. In the corner of the cafeteria, a stand serving various Chinese dishes draws a crowd. Tentatively, more people begin to join in and are invited to sample the food. The students are then asked: Should these items be served in the cafeteria?
The district has long been interested in offering students the opportunity to provide suggestions about the school lunch. Sometimes, the district’s Office of Food and Nutrition allows manufacturers to show off their products via free samples. These products could be new items the district is considering implementing or just revamped versions of current menu items. One such manufacturer, Yang’s 5th Taste, which mainly serves Chinese dishes, laid out a sample display in the upper cafeteria. After sampling, students could vote on whether or not to have Yang’s 5th Taste supply those specific dishes to South. The student body’s verdict? Overwhelmingly positive.
Over the years, the school lunch menu has evolved to encompass more than your typical cafeteria fare. When the district wishes to add different items to the menu, there is a lengthy process by which the district must find someone to supply those meals. According to Ms. Patricia Jimenez-Daley, Director of Food and Nutrition at GNPS, “To add an item, we have to create a specification, or use one that is working for us and bid the item. Manufacturers can then bid on the item to have the rights to supply the item to the school.” Oftentimes, the change is made due to negative feedback of a certain item, as an unprofitable menu item harms the overall profits that allow the program to run.
While these changes have improved school lunch quality, there are still limits as to what can be done. “There is a minimum and maximum calorie limit, and typically a child is hungry because he/she is not taking the complete meal: fruit, vegetable, milk, grain/grain alternate (can be the crust of pizza, bread or pasta) and meat/meat alternate (poultry, cheese),” said Ms. Daley Jimenez. These regulations prevent more nourishing foods from being implemented onto the lunch menu; however, students should make the most out of what is provided.
The cafeteria hopes to introduce additional menu items to make lunch even more enjoyable. Expect the menu to have some fresh dishes by the time the next school year rolls around.