Making their own menu
'There's no need for diet honey mustard,' said Bob Niziol, a junior at Brentwood High School.
But Jennifer Kelley and Jess Barton, seniors at Baldwin High School, gave the dressing made by R.C. Fine Foods high marks.
'You wouldn't think that it would be diet,' Kelley said.
Pepperoni bread, salad dressings, chocolate mousse, juice drinks, hamburgers, fish sandwiches and a variety of fried chicken dishes were among the items sampled and rated Friday by 60 high school students from Baldwin, South Park and Brentwood.
The food tasting event was organized by Eva Skalyo, Baldwin food service director, who began the annual event four years ago. Vendors always invite food service directors to food shows, but the students, who consume the food, don't get many chances to voice their opinions, Skalyo said.
Students are the customers, she said. 'There's a lot of things that they would like that I don't.'
'Chicken strips of fire,' Skalyo offered as an example. The kids love them. But for Skalyo, 'they're too spicy.'
Students were asked to rate the foods on appearance and taste, on a scale of one to five, with five being the best. They also were asked whether or not they would buy the product.
The student comments will then play a factor when each of the three schools purchase food.
Six food brokers - Foodservice Innovations, Classic Food Brokerage, Roos-Mohan Inc., Concept Food Sales, R.C. Fine Foods and Happiness is Homemade - participated in the event.
'Kids like to dip, kids like to eat with their fingers,' Pritchard said.
Kids also like spicy foods, said Linda Bento a representative of Concept Food Sales. Bento offered a variety of Tyson chicken products, including 'Stinger Wings,' 'Hot and Spicy Chicken' and 'Chicken on a Stick,' for the students to sample.
Skaylo said she and other district food service directors pay close attention to what students like when they plan daily lunch menus.
The student cafeteria at Baldwin, which is named The Purple Platter, offers students a standard school hot lunch as well as a salad bar and a food court where items such as pizza, cheeseburgers, french fries and juice drinks can be purchased a la carte.
Both Brentwood and South Park high schools have more traditional lunch rooms.
South Park does have a salad bar and offers baked potatoes with toppings, which is a very popular item, said Sarah Jones, a sophomore at the school.
'If they had food like this, (students) would buy their lunch every day,' said South Park Principal James Horner, who accompanied the students from his school to the food tasting event.
Several Baldwin students said they were particularly impressed with the Chocolate Bavarian with Raspberry Mousse from R.C.
'I'd eat this every day,' said Erin Trageser, a senior.
The mousse, which also is made in a hazelnut flavor, is made with iced water and is not only tasty but also nutritious, said R.C. representative Tony Morelle.
Students also gave high marks to the pepperoni bread made by Happiness is Homemade and the juice drinks from Roos-Mohan, but they weren't favorably impressed with a new product called 'Fruit 2.0.'
The flavored water product is made with a sweetener called 'splenda,' a natural sugar derivative, explained Paul Bastyr, Roos-Mohan representative.
Most students' lunchtime beverage of choice is fruit juice, even though at 60 cents for a small bottle, it is one of the most expensive items on the cafeteria menu, said Raul Jenkins, a Baldwin senior.
For some of the students who serves their lunch is more important than the food that is served.
'Mrs. Hirch is the nicest lunch lady,' said Mark Wroblewski, a junior and a member of the Brentwood football team. 'On Fridays, she gives us lucky pennies for the football game.'
Susan Schmeichel can be reached at email@example.com or (412) 306-4527.