Oh, what Bridget O'Brien Wood could do if the government allowed her just a little more salt. She could serve potato salad that isn't bland. She could experiment with curry sauces. And O'Brien Wood, food service director with Buffalo Public Schools, could finally tell parents that the French fries at lunch taste like the ones their kids gobble up at restaurants.
As it is, O'Brien Wood finds herself in a pickle: She has to serve foods that Buffalo's schoolchildren will eat, but in a way that complies with strict federal nutrition standards intended to combat childhood obesity.
Those standards have forced her and her colleagues to get creative. Not all attempts have worked. When they serve whole-grain spaghetti with meat sauce, some students eat only the meat sauce. When they brought in a local chef to prepare shepherd's pie that met the requirements by including turnips and other root vegetables, most kids wouldn't touch it. Fruit, salad bars, and potatoes have been hits. But other veggies, like oven-baked sweet potato fries, are a tough sell because of clampdowns on sodium.