October 9 through Oct. 13 was a celebration, although the general public wasn’t aware.
“National School Lunch Week highlights the hardworking men and women who work each and every day to meet the nutritional needs of our students,” said Roy Pistone, director of food services for the Citrus County school district.
Gone are the days of assembly-line slop — blobs of mystery meat and tuna surprise, nibbled and dumped in the trash. These days, school lunches are fun.
As students get older, more choices are available. Each Citrus County elementary school offers three different entrees; middle schoolers can choose from five, and high schoolers from seven.
Attention is paid to flavor, texture and student preferences. There are protein packs for athletes, crispy baked curly fries, and parfaits with granola, yogurt and fruit — all within the ever-more-stringent guidelines set by state and federal regulators.
“We’re providing more whole-grain products for our students,” said Pistone. “More fresh fruits and vegetables, and lower-sodium products.”
But not everything that’s healthy tastes great — and kids can be picky eaters.
“We test all of our entrees with our students,” Pistone said. “We look for a 75 percent approval rating before we will put it on a menu.
“One of the mainstays is always pizza,” he said. “But you’ve got to make sure it tastes right. French bread pizzas are new this year, and the students seem to be very accepting of it.”