On today’s menu, the kids had a choice of chili mac with a dinner roll or a chicken corn dog; steamed spinach; apple sauce; and the new banana chocolate chip cake the PAC tasted last month. Here’s a picture:
I was most interested in seeing the steamed spinach, a new item on our menu this year. When I first heard about the spinach from Houston ISD/Aramark Food Services, I couldn’t see how they were going to pull it off without the end result being limp and overcooked. It turns out my concerns were well founded. Not one child at at the table I met with would even touch it. (And the truth is, even if the leaves had been bright and green, plain steamed spinach is still a pretty spartan dish to plop down in front of a bunch of elementary school students.)
I applaud the desire to serve spinach. I understand that HISD cooks from a central kitchen and trucks the food to schools, so on-site prep is not in the cards. And I know all about the absurdly high calorie counts that school districts have to meet under current USDA regulations.
So wouldn’t it make more sense to cook the spinach in a manner that’s more likely to survive transport/reheating AND which bumps up the calories AND which is far more likely to appeal to kids? How about a baked spinach casserole made with reduced fat cheese and topped with crunchy bread crumbs? Such a dish would reheat well. Kids would be getting the calcium we’re so worried about (so much so that we serve artificially colored and flavored milk with as much sugar as a serving of ice cream) and presumably the higher calorie count would mean we don’t need to serve the empty-calorie chocolate chip cake anymore.
What do you think? Which are kids more likely to try?
If there’s a reason why this proposal is unrealistic, I’d love for someone from HISD/Aramark (or maybe Maggie, the TLT reader who is in school food services in an undisclosed district) to share their thoughts.