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Updated Sep 24, 2012 - 8:02 am

Kids try new lunch items in Tempe schools

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Schools are facing new rules from the government when it comes to the lunches they serve.

"One of them is that a student must leave the line with a fruit or vegetable," said Linda Rider, Director of Nutrition Services for the Tempe Elementary School District. "A half of a cup of something on their tray."

But just because it's on their tray, doesn't mean the kids will eat it. That's why the Tempe district is working with chefs from the Washington-based Experience Food Project to provide tastier, healthier food at school.

The district has been having kids taste-test the food. Rider said the goal is start by blending in side dishes to go along with hot dogs and other kid favorites.

"We created a recipe last year, on our own, that is Southwest Black-Eyed peas," Rider said. "It's black-eyed peas that we received from USDA foods. We added fresh cilantro, onions and your traditional southwestern flavors. We serve those now on a regular basis."

The kids' taste test is an important part of the process. "We've certainly learned that if kids become familiar with the food by tasting it, they'll be much more likely to eat it when we serve it because they've already experienced it," said Rider.

Rider said the peas and the district's quesadillas appear to be a hit.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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