When the school day ended, students filtered into the
Duncanville High School cafeteria. They arrived for a Student Council meeting,
but this afternoon, something extra was on the agenda. The Nutrition Services
Department is rolling out a new all-beef hamburger patty. The folks who serve
almost 14,000 meals per day at Duncanville ISD want to make sure the students,
with their sometimes picky palates, like what they’re eating.
Nutrition Services Director Donna Woodard-Thomas and her
staff keep track of students’ preferences by analyzing cafeteria sales.
“We look at the numbers at the end of each day and how many
of each product is purchased to help determine what students like,”
Nutrition Services also takes new products directly to their
customers – setting up tastings with Student Council when they’re planning to
make a major change. Duncanville ISD school cafeterias have been serving a
hamburger for several years that’s part beef and part soy. Woodard-Thomas
wanted a more natural product to put on students’ plates, and that’s why she
asked their opinions on the all-beef burger she’s planning to introduce next
Woodard-Thomas said Nutrition Services is constantly working
to improve customers’ dining experience. Recently, the department added
“flavor stations” at the DHS cafeteria to encourage both kids and adults to eat
their fruits and vegetables. The seasonings are inspired by renowned Chef Paul
Prudhomme and are designed to enhance the flavor of food while remaining sugar
and sodium free. Students are starting to take notice.
“I tried it on a salad,” said senior Octavia Talton, “It was
pretty good. It added a little bit more flavor to it.”
Woodard-Thomas, said it’s not easy balancing the strict
guidelines set up by the United States Department of Agriculture with students’
desire for flavorful food. French fries and pizza are crowd favorites, but
they’re also high in fat and sodium: two things that are restricted by the USDA.
A sneak peek at students’ survey responses showed the
all-beef patty was a huge success.
“It’s really good. The texture and the taste – it tastes
more realistic,” said DHS sophomore Madison Cooper. Her classmates agreed;
several went back for seconds.