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County brings bistro meals to schools' staff
The new lunch menu will feature items such as Tuscan chicken, but will come at a higher price.
By CARRIE RITCHIE
Published July 3, 2007
The menu boasts a Tuscan chicken sandwich, an antipasto salad and savory chicken soup with crimini mushrooms and orzo pasta.
It's sure to draw a crowd at its September debut, but it won't be the general public lining up to taste the food.
Instead, this Panera-esque fare will be reserved for Pasco County schools' faculty and staff.
After numerous surveys and a year of planning, the school system is launching Destinations, a new lunch program, to "appeal to adult tastes, " said Emily Laymon, Food and Nutrition Services training coordinator for Pasco County schools. The menu will feature specialty soups, salads and sandwiches, she said.
"We did it as a way to show how much we appreciate all the work teachers put in, " Laymon said. "It's time for something different."
The ingredients are certainly different than anything previously offered on a school lunch menu. Sandwiches are served on Tuscan rolls, focaccia and ciabatta bread and topped with sauces like pesto and chipotle mayonnaise. Salads come adorned with everything from shrimp to cherries.
And if the staff pre-orders, they can customize their meal.
Monica Isles, principal at Land O'Lakes High School, sampled two of the sandwiches at the district's April and May principals' meetings. She said the Tuscan chicken sandwich highlighted the difference in the new menu because it was seasoned with an array of spices and flavorings.
Laymon said they've been experimenting with recipes to determine the perfect ingredient combinations for each dish.
"I love the Santa Fe wrap, " Laymon said. "It's got a smoky taste to it with the chipotle mayonnaise. It's not something you'd expect to see in a school."
The regular lunch menu will still be available to faculty for $2.90, but Destinations items will cost extra.
A sandwich meal, which includes baked chips or fruit, a side and a drink, will cost about $3.75. Specialty salads, served with bread and a drink, will also cost $3.75. Teachers can choose from a number of combos as well.
The prices will cover all of the program's costs except for the training sessions for the food staff. The district is hosting three optional training sessions over the summer and one for all managers in August. The training sessions each cost about $200 to run.
Isles said she thinks her staff will pay the higher price for better food. She said they've been requesting more salads and Destinations will provide a solution.
"The salad option is definitely more appealing for those of us who are looking to lose some weight, " she said.
Destinations will mark the first time the district offers nutrition information on food items. Laymon said the district doesn't disclose nutrition information on the regular items, but nutrition facts on Destinations food will be readily available to staff so they can choose a meal that fits fitness goals.
Laymon said she's heard nothing but positive feedback about the program, and Isles said she thinks the staff will benefit from the new menu.
"I think any time your work establishment has better quality food and it's more accessible, it's automatically a morale booster, " Isles said.