- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Seventh-grade math students at Washburn Rural Middle School reported early to the school lunchroom in late January. They weren’t there to eat the noon-day meal but to sample four entrees prepared by the school’s cooks from recipes they had created for inclusion on the menus drawn up by Auburn-Washburn Unified School District 437’s food service staff.

As part of a weeklong math enrichment project assigned by teacher Cindy Jones, the 48 students were divided into teams and asked to come up with an entree that met the required nutritional guidelines and cost constraints of the school food service program, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1zjqSZQ ) reported.

They had to figure out the cost of each meal per pupil and the overall cost, as well as the number of calories, grams of fat and milligrams of sodium in the dish. They also converted the amount of ingredients in their recipes to feed the school’s 600 students.

“The math was crazy,” Jones said of the calculations done by the students. “We were studying a unit on scaling and comparing proportions, and we thought about making it real-world and we wanted them to use a recipe they cared about.”

Sitting before the students were two variations of chili and two variations of nachos based on their recipes. The students were to sample the dishes as part of a final review and then vote for the best-tasting entree in each category.

Sofie Conard and Jordyn Seamans, both 12, were eager to see how their team’s Black Bean Chili with Fries turned out.

“We wanted to think of something with beef, beans and veggies,” Sofie said. “We thought about soup, and then we got the chili idea.”

“We got the recipe off a cooking website,” Jordyn said. “We had to change some ingredients because they were too expensive or wouldn’t fit the calories.”

Kitchen manager Trudi Brogan said the students’ original recipe called for curly fries. However, by substituting stick-like fries, they were able to save 10 cents per serving.

“Fifty to 75 cents per entree is what we shoot for,” she said.

In some cases, the students’ recipes had to be altered because the school couldn’t purchase some of the ingredients from its bulk supplier.

Sofie and Jordyn gave their entree a thumbs-up.

“We thought about fries on the side, but they put the chili on top of the fries,” Sofie said.

“It was good. I liked it with the fries,” Jordyn said.

Lakhota Conklin, 13, Tori Carter, 12, and Rashan Ross, 13, were part of the team that submitted a recipe for chicken nachos. The school cooks prepared a seasoned shredded chicken with cheese sauce and a variation that was more like a chicken-cheese dip with tortilla chips.

“We had a quesadilla at first, but they already had that (on the school menu),” Tori said, explaining why they chose nachos.

The seventh-graders were divided on which dish they liked the best: Tori and Rashan liked the shredded chicken, while Lakhota voted for the dip.

At a later date, the students will return to the lunchroom to sample variations of a sweet-and-sour chicken recipe and a bierocks recipe that features a whole wheat roll with ground beef and cabbage that is served with barbecue sauce on the side.

The bierocks recipe was proposed by 13-year-old Rachel Meyer, who said her stepfather likes to make bierocks at home. Her team agreed to go along with the recipe even though some of them had never eaten bierocks.

Rachel said her step-father and mother will be able to eat the dish once it is placed on the district’s menu rotation. Her step-father, Marc Sonderegger, is principal at Wanamaker Elementary School, and her mother, Katie Sonderegger, is a fifth-grade teacher at Indian Hills Elementary.

“They’ll be excited because it was their recipe,” she said.

As part of the enrichment project, Jones said, the students also toured the school kitchen to see the equipment and learn more about the preparation of their meals.

“They gained a real respect for what goes into it,” she said.

Rich Jones, assistant director of operations, said the food service personnel were as excited as the students about the project because they were learning about what types of foods the students prefer.

“They want the kids to eat their lunches,” he said. “Our district is big on customer service, and here our kids are the customers.”


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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