Salazar Elementary fifth grader Hayley Levine knows the importance of eating healthy. That is why she is making a conscious effort to select nutritious foods at the Donna Independent School District’s 3rd Annual Student Food Show.
“I’m picking the good stuff that’s good for us like the salads,” Levine said. “The taco salad and the market salad are really good.”
The Student Food Show was spearheaded by Donna ISD’s Child Nutrition Services Department. Director Diana Quintanilla said the event allowed students an opportunity to taste the different hot meals that are being considered for the next school year’s menu.
“The purpose behind the Student Food Show is to conduct a survey,” Quintanilla said. “We want to find out what students like or don’t like about a meal and why. We then use that information and take it into consideration when we replace menu items that weren’t favorable this year. Students may like something and then change their minds. What we want to do is remove the foods that they don’t like any more and replace them with the ones they liked in this show. We want to serve them foods that they’ll eat.”
Levine said the Student Food Show is a good idea. “I like this because it gives the kids a chance to pick their own food and allows us to be independent without anyone telling us what to do.”
Quintanilla said that each of the 22 schools within the district were asked to select 10 students to represent their campuses and participate in the Food Show. They had the choice of tasting any or all of the hot meals that were prepared and put on display by staff. When they were done, the students were asked to complete a survey detailing what they thought about the dishes.
“We think a 200-plus student survey is a good sampling mechanism that will give us an idea what students like and don’t like,” Quintanilla said. “They get to take their time tasting the meals and networking with other students from other campuses to see what they think. They also get to give us their opinions on the survey.”
Quintanilla said part of the plan at this year’s Food Show was to present healthier food items that will appeal to students. “We wanted to present nice-looking, restaurant-style salads that students want to pick up and eat,” Quintanilla said. “We hope these salads will increase their interest in eating healthier. A lot of times people aren’t interested in salads because they don’t look presentable and enticing. But we’re taking salads to a whole different level.”
In fact, Quintanilla said the district is trying out the salads for the first time this month by incorporating them in grades 6-12. “We’ll be integrating a taco salad, a market salad and a grilled chicken salad at the two high schools. Then we’ll move on to the middle schools. These students will have a selection to choose from on a daily basis. Once we integrate them into the secondary schools, we’re going to take a smaller portion and serve them to the younger ones because they won’t eat a big salad.”
Quintanilla said these new meals meet all the dietary guidelines so that the district will be fully reimbursed by the state.