Orange County Public Schools recently hosted its Annual Student Food Show at the Orlando Science Center where approximately 400 students put their taste buds to work among the dinosaurs, planets, and laboratories at the OSC.
“This is probably the single most important event we do each year,” says Lora Gilbert, senior director of OCPS Food and Nutrition Services. "The healthiest menu in the world is not healthful unless the kids will eat it."
More than 40 vendors served 144 food items at the event, including gluten-free and vegetarian options. Students then gave their opinion with a “bite of technology” on a mini computer as part of a digital project funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture. Surveys were pre-loaded on to iPads using the NurtiSlice app and clipped to each table. Students used the app to rate each item they tasted and gave 121 of the 144 items a passing score. The scores were disaggregated to elementary, middle, and high school students and will be used as placement indicators on the menu.
“Vendors provide the latest new products, our Registered Dietitians screen the items for nutrition and the students tell us what they will eat," Gilbert says. "Customer approval is working; we have doubled participation in the program in the last 10 years."
Standout items from last year’s show like the jalapeno ranch sauce and the breakfast chicken patty earned a spot on the 2013-2014 menus and have students rushing to the cafeteria on the days they are served.
OCPS Food and Nutrition Services serve more than 29 million meals and snacks each year. That works out to approximately 175,000 breakfast and lunch meals daily. The department brings in more than $69 million in federal money to the school district.