EE Eats: Students rate popular cafeteria meals

Cafeteria strives to make tasty food that follows strict government rules


David Doerr

Eagle's Eye staff recruited volunteers to rate lunch meals from the cafeteria. Volunteers provided ratings and comments below.

Students are not shy about sharing their opinions about the school cafeteria lunch, and they are often heard making comments about its look and taste.

Teenagers are notoriously hard to please demographic of eaters. Left to their own tastes as a guide, many teenagers would like nothing better than eating fried, fast foods that provide satisfying taste, but lack the basic elements of essential nutrition.

Ryan Cengel, Austin ISD dietitian, said the district has to follow USDA regulation on all of its menu items. Some of those rules include offering all whole grain-rich products greater than 50 percent, a variety of colors of vegetables, a certain amount of fruits and vegetables per day/meal. The cafeteria also must offer a choice of milk and has limits on calories, saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium. He said Austin ISD goes above and beyond the nutrition requirements.

“We have to offer a certain amount of grains, protein, fruits, vegetables (various colors) and milk at each meal,” Cengel said.

The cafeteria staff is also restricted from using ingredients with trans fats. Sodium and saturated fats are also limited. Cengel said that the district food service staff certainly has challenges when working to feed students in 114 kitchens at 130 campuses.

“That means that every one of our recipes has to be followed accurately by all of the (hundreds) of cooks in those kitchens. Consistency can be an issue, but we have a team of chefs that is constantly in the kitchens conducting culinary training with our cooks. This ensures that the quality of the food is consistently good in all of our schools.”