Out and About: OCPS Food Bites 2015 Showcased School Lunch Prospects

We were invited to attend the Best Bites 2015 food show by the Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) Food and Nutrition Services. This show allows vendors of school foods to have their foods tasted by kids and adults alike.

Best Bites 2015 food show by the Orange County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services

360 kids from 9 schools all over Orange County attended along with Cafeteria Managers, a few administrators, and with a few bloggers sprinkled in. My daughter was chosen to go along with her school, so it worked out well.

This year’s Best Bites event was held at the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

Best Bites 2015 food show by the Orange County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services

This was a fun event. The purpose of this event is to vote on what you hated, liked, and loved at kiosks around the building.  According to Chef Genie Worthman, this event will help her put together school lunch menus that are both good for the kids and taste good and that the kids will eat.  With all of the federal regulations that school food now has to follow, it is a challenge, and with 2 kids in elementary school, I care very much what the school lunch program serves, too.

Best Bites 2015 food show - chip samples; flavored varieties of Raisets
Best Bites 2015 food show – chip samples; flavored varieties of Raisets

We got to sample some things meant for high schools as well as items for elementary and middle schools.  I have to say, school lunches have changed greatly in the years since I was a kid in school.

The square pizza slice has become gourmet (sweet potato crust with farm fresh cheese) and the “Mexican casserole” has become gorditas in 3 varieties: vegetarian, beef and bean mild, or spicy. Kids today eat very differently than just “kids food”.

Best Bites 2015 food show - Sweet Potato crust pizza; Gorditas
Best Bites 2015 food show – Sweet Potato crust pizza; Gorditas

School lunch needs to keep up with the variety of flavors from all over the world as our schools become more diverse. Our district has kids from 197 different countries speaking 168 different languages. We are very diverse! The problem with going to a show like this is that, after a while, it all starts to taste the same. Even with small sample sizes.

Best Bites 2015 food show - burritos; pierogies two ways
Best Bites 2015 food show – burritos; pierogies two ways

My favorite of all that I tasted were the pierogis – you can do so much with them! They served them enchilada style, lasagna style, and with broccoli in a cream sauce. All of which were different and tasty. My daughter’s favorite food item was a Cuban sandwich, which was similar to the Hoagie Flat with Pulled Pork that was also served.

Best Bites 2015 food show - pulled pork flatbread hoagie; chicken nuggets several ways
Best Bites 2015 food show – pulled pork flatbread hoagie; chicken nuggets several ways

I also liked the Peanut Butter and Grape Jelly Grahams sandwich. I think it would be a great option for breakfasts as long as there are not peanut allergies. Our school has kids with those allergies, so they wouldn’t work for us, unfortunately.

Best Bites 2015 food show - Peanut Butter and Grape Jelly Grahams; iced coffee; pasta two ways
Best Bites 2015 food show – Peanut Butter and Grape Jelly Grahams; iced coffee; pasta two ways

That is why the kiosks are so important in getting information quickly as to what the kids like and would like to see on their menus at school.

The event was exciting, and it was an honor to be part of this year’s Best Bite 2015 show. Thanks to OCPS for the invite!

[Photos by Kirk Garreans]

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