In schools, it's cafeteria food, remixed

A Taste of DCSD gives parents a chance to sample what their kids are eating every day

By Julie A. Taylor, Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 9/28/17

The bass line of “Another One Bites the Dust” pumped through Castle View High School as about 450 area students and their families came together for A Taste of DCSD.

Everyone knows what an apple a day can do, but Douglas County School …

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In schools, it's cafeteria food, remixed

A Taste of DCSD gives parents a chance to sample what their kids are eating every day

Posted

The bass line of “Another One Bites the Dust” pumped through Castle View High School as about 450 area students and their families came together for A Taste of DCSD.

Everyone knows what an apple a day can do, but Douglas County School District officials believe students achieve more when met with a full salad bar, Noosa Yoghurt topped with granola and street tacos stuffed with cucumber spears and shredded meat.

Sept. 20 was most parents' best opportunity to experience what their kids eat every day, and attendees enjoyed hefty samplings of 15 different cafeteria foods.

Vendors showcased breakfast bars, desserts and international entrees from their booths, and discerning guests filled out a "passport" booklet to give feedback.

Inara Curts, an 11-year-old at Sky View Academy in Highlands Ranch, came in with low expectations, as her critical palate is limited to only certain foods.

“She's a picky eater,” said her mom Treena, the preschool director at World Compass Academy in Castle Rock.

Inara concluded she would eat the SoCool Frozen Yogurt for lunch, but after a stern side-eye from her mom, Inara claimed she would order a stuffed cheeseburger instead.

Lots of others liked the stuffed cheeseburgers, too, as well as Korean BBQ Street Tacos, turkey paninis and Denver-based Froozers, a frozen smoothie in a tube.

“(The event) is a good opportunity to get feedback on a large scale, from multiple ages. People aren't afraid to let you know how they feel,” said Amy Faricy, manager of menu services for the school district. “I didn't hear a single negative thing about the food we had out there.”

The purpose of the event is to not only gain perspective on what students like, but to let parents experience the latest cafeteria foods.

“It gets the parents excited, and kids excited to show their parents what they're eating every day and what they like,” Faricy said.

Douglas County participates in free and reduced meals for those who are financially eligible, and creates meals for about 30,000 students and staff daily, a routine that research shows ties directly into students' educational performance.

Experts agree that hunger negatively impacts a child's ability to learn, yet about 1 in 6, or 13 million, U.S. children don't get enough food at home, according to a recent study by Washington,D.C.-based nonprofit Share Our Strength, which has a No Kid Hungry campaign. More than half of the teachers surveyed responded that they buy food regularly for certain students, and the majority of teachers have seen first-hand how hunger negatively affects a child's educational performance. Because of hunger, 46 percent of children from low-income families couldn't focus during school, and 12 percent couldn't make it through their nightly homework.

A Taste of DCSD, which started in 2012, has grown substantially over the years — not only in crowd size, but also in vendor inclusion.

DCSD's Sustainability Coordinator Courtney Kuntz ran a booth where children could plant seeds in a take-home cup, and parents could get a taste of how her department impacts the entire community.

Kuntz said that among their many projects, the three-person sustainability team held a campaign a few years ago among bus drivers, challenging them to keep their idling time under five minutes — the savings rang in at $30,000.

“People might think it's a small impact, but it's not when you're working with the volume we are,” Kuntz said.

The following are lunch prices for students in the Douglas County School District:

• Elementary school: $2.85

• Middle school: $3.10

• High school: $3.25

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