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Mesa nutrition team spices up lunch flavors


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  • Laurie Struna/Mesa Public Schools

Mesa Students At Lunch

Mesa Public Schools food and nutrition department provides students with a wide selection of foods that are both appealing and nutritious.

School breakfasts and lunch menus must meet the minimum guidelines set by the USDA for protein, grains, fruits, vegetables and fat calories. It’s essential to keep menus cost effective and, at the end of the day, ensure student’s taste buds are satisfied.

Mesa Public Schools is continuously improving recipes to meet the needs of our customer’s discerning palates. Professional development plays an important role in keeping menus fresh and engaging.

Mesa nutrition team spices up lunch flavors MesaLunchesInside

Mesa Public Schools food and nutrition department provides students with a wide selection of foods that are both appealing and nutritious. Photo courtesy Tim Hacker/Mesa Public Schools

Recently, members of the food and nutrition department participated in a workshop where they received training on knife skills, spicing up flavor profiles, food preparation techniques, and recipe development.

Chef Michael Turcott, of the East Valley Institute of Technology, and Schwan’s Food Service Chef Craig Claude, conducted food demonstrations to enhance the team’s culinary skills.

The workshops allowed the cooks to don their thinking toques and get creative with products already in their inventory, while adhering to the new guidelines.

Loretta Zullo, director of food and nutrition said, “Recognizing the versatility of our products opened a world of creativity to us.”

Chef Slaude taught them how to take a round pizza product with a proven success rate and reinvent it by turning it into a stromboli. This lesson proved to be a tasty and satisfying way to add additional vegetables to a lunchtime classic.

The USDA reduced-sodium guidelines make school lunches healthier, and it can take time for taste buds to adjust. But lower sodium does not have to mean less flavor.

Our culinarians create flavor profiles utilizing spices and herbs to amp up flavors without salt. New flavor profiles offer flexibility in the kitchen and is an important tool when servicing the needs of the largest school district in the state of Arizona.

The composition of school meals takes into consideration how they are consumed. For example, in elementary schools, meals are designed to be eaten with smaller hands or with a spork.

At Westwood High School, more than 800 lunches are served in 35 minutes. Mesa Public Schools currently serves more than 37,000 lunches a day at 79 schools, and 18,000 breakfasts a day at 67 schools.

Food and nutrition conducts student taste testing of new products at elementary, junior high and high school levels throughout the school year to evaluate potential new items. Successful products are incorporated into future menus.

The goal is to have students enjoy and finish their meals, as research indicates children who are well nourished have improved concentration, elevated test scores, better school attendance an fewer behavioral issues.

For more information about school meals please visit www.mpsaz.org/food.