Test hides blueberries in burgers for lunch

Schoolchildren sample healthy products for taste

October 19, 2004|By FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM

FORT WORTH, Texas - Meadowbrook Elementary fifth-grader Mercedes Strawther nibbled on the salty, rectangular block of white cheese and decided she didn't like it because it was "gushy and nasty."

Thumbs down, she marked on her evaluation sheet.

Hugo Roman, 10, liked the charbroiled-flavor burger he tried because it "tastes like Burger King."

With their taste buds on loan to the U.S. Agriculture Department, students judged - on color, smell and taste - a dozen other food items last week.

They tasted and rated everything from blueberry burgers and queso blanco to asparagus salsa and dried plum and raisin barbecue sauces.

The future of the blueberry burger in schools might rest on their preferences.

The USDA is considering adding these healthier vegetable- and fruit-infused food products to those offered to the nearly 100,000 schools across the country that participate in the National School Lunch Program.

Those schools receive products or cash subsidies from the USDA for serving foods that meet federal nutrition guidelines.

The new products are part of the smaller move to increase fruit and vegetable consumption by students and the larger move to curb childhood obesity.

"These are innovative uses of these products," said Eric M. Forman, USDA associate deputy administrator for the fruit and vegetable programs. "Schools have a nutritional value-added item here, rather than being just a condiment."

Part of that plan includes giving local food-service workers ideas on how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into everyday food items.

In some cases, incorporating the nutritious items into meals is a matter of creativity - such as combining blueberry puree with lean ground beef to produce a more moist and flavorful patty.

Students testing the burgers last week did not detect the blueberries.

The push for healthier lunches has gone beyond fruits and vegetables in Texas to more restrictions this year on the number of fatty and sugary foods students may eat.

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