Kids taste-test school lunch

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

Region One Education Service Center (ESC) held a school nutrition product expo last Thursday afternoon hosted by CNP-South Texas Cooperative at the South Padre Island Convention Centre.

The event drew around 130 venders and 193 students from San Isidro, Mission, Weslaco, San Perlita, Monte Alto, Harlingen, PSJA, La Feria, Santa Rosa, and Edinburg.  The students in attendance ranged from 3rd to 12th grade.

The objective of the Expo is to “see what new products are out there and give students an opportunity to test them and see what is most popular with the student body,” said Lori Atwood Ramos, a purchasing coordinator with Region One ESC.

“We host the event every other year. One year Region 2, which is Corpus (Christi), hosts it and then we do it and just go back and forth,” Ramos explained. Region One consists of school districts from seven counties, including: Cameron, Willacy, Webb, Starr, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg and Zapata.

However, it is not as easy as just inviting venders. The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 sets out very strict nutritional standards. “We have to look at the sodium, fats, calorie levels. They all have to meet the nutrition targets,” Ramos said.

“The food ranges from school breakfast, lunch, after school snacks, to even dinner at some school districts,” she said. “The students go around to each booth and rate the food on an evaluation form which has a smiley happy face, a so-so face, a sad face, and a place to put comments,” Ramos said.

The food at the expo included: lemon grass chicken, gluten-free barbecue teriyaki chicken, samosa (an Indian inspired veggie pocket), sweet potato cheese pizza and much more.

“After the expo the data is aggregated and sent out to the school districts and the vendors so they know what was popular and what was not so popular,” Ramos said.

“Then I go out and bid on their behalf,” she said.

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