While talking with a cook manager about her experience at a recent food show, she mentioned an observation: She found it interesting that considering she and every other school in the state attending the expo serves kids and teenagers, no kids were at the expo. For a tradeshow focused on buying, preparing and serving food to kids, why weren’t any of our customers present? 

I think that is a pretty intriguing question, but I am not sure it would be the most productive strategy to have students running around the food show commenting on and critiquing the food.  However, if schools brought student representatives who are part of their respective schools’ tasting or lunch committee, student participation would make a lot of sense.  

But first we need to step back and ask, do we even have a student tasting or lunch committee?  And we may then ask, why should we have a tasting committee in the first place?

You know your students better than anyone, and you certainly want to please them by providing delicious and nutritious foods they will enjoy. Tasting committees will spawn two-way dialogue about food and can enrich staff and student relationships. Students’ suggestions do not have to be 100% implemented, or even 50%. Simply stated, these committees can show students that the meal program truly cares about their opinions.  

Here is how committees work: Committees can be as simple as a group of students participating in a taste test hosted by one of the nutrition staff before school starts once per quarter or month where the 5-10 students try a new food item. Or, the committee can serve as a liaison between the students and nutrition staff, sharing ideas or feedback gathered from their classmates. For elementary schools, invite  4th, 5th and/or 6th graders to be on the committee.  For middle schools, consider students from all grades to participate. For high schools, invite whoever wants to be involved especially students of influence.

With even a small amount of involvement, having a student tasting/lunch committee will help enhance the perception of your school’s meal program. A committee can help students advocate, cheerlead or share opinions about the great food offered by your meal program and all the hard work and effort your nutrition staff is putting forth for delicious and nutritious meals every day.