Another step towards improved lunches

Student Choice is a new program being introduced by the school district’s food partner Chartwells. The program gives students the opportunity to voice their opinions and contribute to the school menu, hoping to create a more enjoyable dining experience for students.

Food Service Director Tina Malzahn explains why the Student Choice program began. 

“Today’s students are smarter and savvier about the way they eat,” Malzahn said. “The program was designed for the students to deliver on engagement by giving students a voice in their menu options. New, on-trend station concepts provide more variety while voting technology allows for better student interaction, all resulting in an enhanced student dining experience.” 

The program begins with staff reviewing the current menus and compiling new concepts that might interest students. They actively try not to provide foods that have previously been on the menu so that students have new and exciting options to try. The use of polling stations is an important part of Student Choice. Having students actively participate in taste testing the food that they might be having adds an interactive experience that will ensure data is collected while also providing a stimulating and pleasant environment. 

With ample feedback, the program is able to provide quality, nutritious meals that students will enjoy. As times continually change, Student Choice brings the latest and most popular foods straight to the cafeteria and lets the students choose, providing the students with more freedom, possibility, and control over their diet. If a specific food item or meal does well and shows steady success, Chartwells will continue offering the menu item or meal at another station or start to rotate it on the menu cycle to keep the menu choices fresh for students.

The staff in the lunchroom enjoy seeing the kids testing the food and even trying it themselves. Lunch Lady Dawn Walker shares her thoughts on the program.

“I see the Student Choice program being a long-term program,” Walker said. “The students love it, trying new foods and taste testing everything we make and then they vote. It’s very good. I like the steak with cream cheese and dill.”   

Roasted and toasted paninis are one of the newly introduced foods chosen by the students. The meat options include turkey, ham, Italian sausage, chicken, and beef. Chartwells is even able to incorporate vegetarian options for students like roasted vegetables, mushrooms, and eggplants as toppings to accommodate students’ wants and needs. 

According to Malzahn, Chartwells’ dining service team is committed to working with students to “reimagine the school dining experience and get students excited about new foods and flavors and Students Choice reinforces our goals to provide the best service we can for our customers.” 

The ultimate goal of Chartwells and Student Choice is for students to have their opinions heard and for them to feel appreciated while also providing food that incorporates fresh, healthy, minimally processed, and locally sourced ingredients. Additionally, the interactive testing portion of the program is meant to encourage and promote healthier eating habits among students and the community.

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Emily Cochran

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