Pinellas County Schools students taste-test, vote for items they want on their school lunch menus

McKenna King | ABC Action News WFTS-TV

Feb 19, 2020

Source: ABC Action News WFTS-TV

In 2018, JWB invested in a Teen Food Insecurity Study, as part of the Pinellas Childhood Hunger Collective Initiative. The research showed that preference was the second largest factor hindering food security for teens, and it was recommended that schools find ways to elicit student input into school lunch menus.  The results? For a second year in a row, Pinellas County School students are taking part in the Student Food Connection to help choose what they want on their school lunch menu.

For the second year in a row, Pinellas County Schools are letting students choose what they want on their school lunch menu.

Hundreds of students from several schools in Pinellas County rode buses to Pinellas Technical Campus to taste-test 28 different recipes, and vote on what foods should make the cut.

Falafel, quinoa, hummus, turkey burgers, chocolate chip mini pancakes, those are only a handful of the options, and none of them are items you typically see on a school lunch menu.

Lynn Geist, the Director of Food and Nutrition for Pinellas County Schools, said the “Student Food Connection” is a result of a teen food insecurity study that was conducted at Pinellas County Schools a couple years ago.

“One of the things the kids said was, ‘we would like to have more input into our menus at school,’” said Geist.

So, Pinellas County Schools put together the “Student Food Connection” program, where the school lunch vendors come in from all over the country with new recipes. They let the students taste-test the food and vote for what they want to see on next year’s school lunch menu.

“It gives us a variety, it feels like we have a decision,” said one of the students.

Once the kids tried out the lunch items, they went over to an iPad, where they voted on which items they think should make the cut.

Any items that rank in the middle will be featured at schools throughout the school year.

This is the second year Pinellas County Schools has done this program, and they plan to continue to do it in the future.

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