Taste Testing, Training and New Recipes Focus of STMA Food Service Program
Find out how the food service staff in the St. Michael-Albertville School District is working to address student concerns.
Everyday, Dolores Helgeson, director of the food service program for St. Michael-Albertville School District, works to make sure students are happy with their food.
And in addition to satisfaction, Helgeson wants to curb the obesity epidemic washing over America.
“Besides serving nutritious meals, the goal of the school nutrition program is to help change unhealthy eating habits and reverse the obesity epidemic that threatens the health of children and ultimately their health as an adult,” Helgeson told Patch. “We are committed to serving meals that students will eat and enjoy despite the challenges of getting students to try different fruits and vegetables, changing recipes and reducing calories.”
It’s no secret that some St. Michael-Albertville High School students are upset with the food served during lunch.
“I love fruit, but quality fruit,” one student said in a recent Patch article. “It's hard to find a banana that is ripe, and apples that aren't bruised.”
But Helgeson wants to be clear: Preparing thousands of meals a day for teenagers who may be picky eaters to start with is no easy task.
“Imagine a family preparing meals for four, six or eight family members and satisfying what sometimes can be picky eaters,” Helgeson said. “ We prepare almost 4,000 meals daily to those same children.”
In a recent presentation made at a St. Michael-Albertville School District meeting, Helgeson noted that meeting everyone’s expectations is a work in progress. According to her presentation, Helgeson and her staff are constantly looking for ways to improve recipes through taste testing, on-going training and working with vendors to introduce new products.
“We will continue to make changes as we try and match what the students want to eat within what the federal guidelines allow,” Helgeson said.
As for the sweet potato fries that one student described as “soggy” and “tasteless,” Helgeson said vendors are working on it.
“Vendors are playing catch up with such items as sweet potato fries and we are continuing to learn how best to prepare the items,” Helgeson said.
If you're a student and are concerned about the lunch you receive, Helgeson suggests bringing the lunch back to the kitchen manager immediately so staff can address and replace the item.