Craven County Schools food festival revamps school meals

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) – 230 students played food critic Friday after Craven County schools invited them in to taste test food from different vendors to help build better school breakfasts and lunches.

From savory to sweet, the flavors were diverse, and so were the preferences for each age group.

Director of school nutrition Lauren Weyand says this food festival is an engaging way to integrate student input and increase their participation in the district’s meal programs.

“The main goal for us has always been to feed more kids. We don’t like it when we hear that the food is going in the trash and that has been the case for years and some food items. So, when we see kids eating, there’s nothing that makes me smile bigger.”

This year, they are focusing on presenting innovative, diverse, and ethnic foods to students.

Students say some food was delicious enough to put on a happy dance, while other foods were not a hit.

Student Jensen Robles said, “My least favorite was the vanilla bun. I didn’t really like that but everything else was amazing.”

Weyand says student participation in lunch programs in the county is up to 75% this year with their input in the menu.

She added that the items that received positive feedback from students will be incorporated in the schools’ breakfast and lunch menus, as early as February.

Weyand added that this is a federally supported program where USDA reimburses for every meal eaten by a student.

The more the students eat, the more money they will get to invest in higher-quality ingredients.