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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.