Carter County students look at potential menu options at food show

Carter County students all go to the cafeteria each school day, either to enjoy the food the school provides or to enjoy the food they brought themselves. The school’s menu, however, is more in the students’ control than many might realize.

Hundreds of students from across the county took a field trip to the Freedom Hall Civic Center in Johnson City Thursday morning to participate in NETCO’s Food Show, where students from across the region gathered to sample different companies’ products and decide which foods they want to see in their schools.

Director of School Nutrition with Carter County Schools Lindsey Feathers said the event is crucial to the school system’s determination of which vendors to use in Food Services.

“They evaluate each product, and there is a brief survey,” Feathers said. “If there is not at least a 75 percent approval rating, we do not consider even sending them a bid for a price.”

NETCO is a cooperative venture formed in 1997 to help school systems form lasting partnerships between school systems and food providers.

Dozens of potential vendors from across the country set up tables at Freedom Hall, ranging from chicken to cookies and even types of coffee.

The event was not just for research purposes, however. Inflatables, a DJ and more made the experience a place of fun for students who attended.

“We have got students that have been here multiple years,” she said. “The teachers enjoy it because it is such a different field trip. There is a lot more to [school lunches] than just putting it on a plate.”

She said many students tell her it is the best field trip they have ever been on.

“It is worth it to see them and to get what they like,” Feathers said. “That is important to us.”

She said the food show is one of the many ways the school system actively listens to the students’ opinions and voices on how the system should work.

“We want them to enjoy what is provided to them,” Feathers said. “We want to provide a nutritious meal. We want to encourage them to think of healthier options.”

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