Students taste test new school lunch menu items on the IPS Try It Tour

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INDIANAPOLIS – Kids can be picky eaters, but Indianapolis Public Schools is working hard in the kitchen to provide nutritious foods their students actually like and will eat. That's especially important for students whose get their best, and sometimes only meals, at school. IPS food service introduces new food items on the “Try It Tour” to see what grade students give.

The lunch line forms at IPS Stephen Foster School 67 on the near west side at 11:25 a.m. Second and third graders are first to arrive in the cafeteria Friday.

"School lunch provides a large part of the nutrition, in addition to school breakfast, the students are getting most of the day,” said Amana Kruse, IPS food service dietician and operations manager. “Here in Indianapolis, we have a lot of students that also don't have access to a ton of different food items once they leave school."

IPS food service offers milk, a hot entree or protein pack, two vegetables and two fruits in 30,000 meals daily. Middle schoolers also get juice and high schoolers have even more options.

"We are a restaurant just like any other,” said Kruse. “It is our job to make sure these students have things that they want to eat."

The Try It Tour made stops at School 67, 90 and 63 Friday offering samples of the dill-seasoned chicken filet sandwich.

"It was good,” said second grader James Wells, “the chicken part."

"It was amazing,” said third grader Sofia Contreras, “the flavor."

"It was good,” said third grader Dorian Hycheriggs. “It felt like I was in a whole different world."

"It tasted good,” said third grader Lavarius Howard. “I like the meat and the bread. It makes me proud."

A new food item is taste tested with students each month. A teriyaki popcorn chicken bowl and barbecue chicken sandwich on flatbread are both past Try It Tour samples that won approval from students to be added to the regular three-week rotation menu.

Not everyone gave a favorable review of the dill seasoned chicken filet sandwich.

"I didn't really like it,” said third grader Bianca Ortiz. “I don't know why. The chicken made it feel weird."

"If it's something that they decide they don't like, that's valuable feedback for us,” said Kruse. “It's only nutritious if it's food they're going to eat. We want our menus to reflect kid-friendly focused items that they really want to eat."

Kruse interrupted lunch to ask for a group response from the students.

"If you liked that sandwich and would want to see it on the menu, maybe you want to eat it or would choose it when you came through for lunch, would you clap your hands for me?"

A strong ovation meant dill seasoned chicken filet sandwich could be added to the IPS menu, although School 67 was just the first of three schools to review the sandwich Friday.