More than 200 Fairfax County Public School students gathered in a Westfields Marriott ballroom Monday morning, tasting and rating new food items that could appear in school cafeterias next year.
For the first time, Virginia’s largest school system hosted a Future of FCPS Student Food show, which it said is part of its plan to add healthier and more diverse foods to its breakfast and lunch cafeteria menus.
Monday’s event featured more than 30 different concepts, according to Shaun Sawko, the county’s new executive director of food and nutrition services. Students, representing every region in the county, were able to vote for their favorites in real time, using iPads scattered throughout the room.
The goal, Sawko said, is for the county to use the student feedback to adjust school menus. He anticipates changes will start to be made in either the spring or fall.
“It’s the first time we’re doing it, and I think us students who actually eat the food should have a voice in how it tastes and what it should be,” said Fahim, who was most excited to sample the chicken tikka masala.
Menu items ranged from tacos and sandwiches to smoothies and waffles. Items on display included turkey gyros, Nashville-style hot chicken street tacos, a berry cheesecake smoothie bowl, a spicy rice power bowl, Baja fish tacos and yuca fries.
Olivia, a sixth-grader, enjoyed the turkey gyros and said the “Almost Summer” smoothie was among her favorites. She’s eager for the menu overhaul.
“The only really good thing on the menu (now) is really pizza on Fridays,” she said. “That’s why I pack lunch.”
Zoe loved the chicken wings because, “It’s really sweet, but then after a little bit, a little bit of spice kicks in, and it’s just amazing.”
She added, “I would definitely eat this at school,”
Before the event, Sawko said, the school system asked potential vendors for a list of made-from-scratch concepts. Then, the county chose food items that they’d be able to offer with the staff and equipment that they have.
Fairfax County has already revamped its approach to student meals, ensuring every school has a salad bar in place. That initiative was a priority for Superintendent Michelle Reid.
As students roamed the room Monday, many were laughing and smiling, eager to weigh in on what could be on their trays in the near future.
Sawko said he’s seeing a lot of happy face and that’s a huge feedback.
“That’s what really matters to me,” Sawko said. “We’re just excited to be able to showcase what the future of food in Fairfax County can be.”