VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The smell of chopped fresh peppers, basil and onions filled the kitchen at Landstown Middle School Monday morning.
“It’s gonna be a rice-based dish and then we’re gonna, either two different toppings, we’re gonna be doing like a ground beef,” Virginia Beach Public Schools’ District Chef Kip Poole said.
Poole and two cooks spent the morning prepping samples of a new dish – a fiesta bowl.
It’s one of the new meals featuring locally-grown fresh vegetables and protein.
They’re it cooking up as part of a new initiative in the district.
“They’re already doing a lot of scratch cooking, but we’re really here to introduce more and really understand what the kids want instead of that just everyday pizza, french fries kind of thing,” Poole explained.
A lot of the foods kids eat now are “thaw and bake” across Hampton Roads and the country.
Some of those options are healthy, but Beach school officials say fresh ingredients are the healthiest.
“A lot of parents are concerned about what their kids are eating. There’s the growth of obesity across the country, starting with juveniles,” the school district’s Director of Food Services John Smith said.
Before the colorful meals hit the lunch line it has to go through several steps, including a nutritional value check and a taste test.
News 3’s Brian Hill took a bite of the fiesta bowl.
“It’s definitely a good dish. It’s seasoned very well. The vegetables - you can tell they’re fresh by their texture," Hill explained.
The dishes are only being served daily at Old Donation School, where the pilot program started last year.
School leaders say the goal is to start providing the meals in five to 10 schools each semester starting next fall.
“We can make a big impact on their dietary habits for the future,” Smith said.