TAMPA, Fla. - The Freedom High School cafeteria was full of food critics, and they didn't hold back. Especially because some of the fare they were sampling could wind up on lunch menus in the 2011-12 school year.
"I didn't like the oatmeal or the salad thing with the ranch -- it was nasty," said 11-year-old Elizabeth Williams. "But I liked the pizza."
The Hillsborough County public schools student nutrition services department hosted their second annual Fresh Flavors -- Foods for Body and Mind Expo. Around 200 students from around the district tested and rated eighteen potential new menu items, ranging from Thai curry chicken to veggie potstickers with rice to apple cinnamon oatmeal.
"The apple cinnamon oatmeal was good," said 9-year-old Evan Green. "It was my favorite."
The students made their choices based on appearance, smell and taste. Vendors such as Rachel Smith from McCain Foods said they like Hillsborough County's approach of treating students as consumers so they can get feedback on their new items.
"I think it's about 50-50, which is typical for a vegetable-type item," said Smith, who offered veggie sweet potatoes. "But I think it's surprising that some kids that don't think they like them actually love them and vice-versa. But overall, I think we've got a great product, and that the kids are actually taking to it."
A select group of children won iPods through an random drawing, and Hillsborough County officials will look over every recommendation and comment made by the students before selecting the foods which will be on next year's menu.
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Parents and students have an opportunity to put a dent in the bottom line of their back-to-school shopping list by taking advantage of the Sales Tax Holiday which runs until midnight August 14.