Lawrence students had a chance to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to different foods for their cafeterias.
Steven McEwan, 11, from East Heights School sat with spoonfuls of yogurt, doughnut samples, tiny cups of fruit salads and bits of chicken nuggets spread in front of him.
He dutifully tried each one, circling a thumb up or a thumb down on the yellow slip of paper for that product.
"I had a really small lunch," he said, for which he was glad. He had sampled 17 different items.
"So far, I've liked pretty much everything," he said.
The Lawrence public schools Food Service Division held "Thumbs Up to Child Nutrition," a taste test for students and staff, Tuesday at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.
Each Lawrence school was invited to send a small number of students to the taste test. Those attending had a chance to check out the different foods that wholesalers and brokers had to offer for school cafeterias. Nineteen vendors offered samples of pizza, chicken nuggets, sweets and fruit dishes for students to try.
Small groups from the district's junior high and elementary schools wandered from table to table, sampling the wares and filling out forms.
"If they like something, we want to know," said Paula Murrish, the food service director. About 120 students attended.
The idea for the event came from school cooks, Murrish said.
"They wanted to know what kids liked," she said.
There was a whole table of different yogurt flavors and another covered with Little Debbie treats. At least five different kinds of fish where available in nuggets, fish shapes and nautical shapes. One table had a host of fruit salads to try, and another had a bunch of warm dishes -- pizza, taco dishes and bread sticks -- cut into small pieces. There were frozen treats and ice creams to test. To wash it all down, there was a variety of Pepsi products and juices.
"I do like the idea of this, having the kids come through ... and say what they like," said Teresa Marshall, vice president of the East Heights Parent Teacher Organization. "I think if kids have a say in what they eat, they won't waste as much."
Dahlia Grossman-Heinze, 10, Jose Esqueda, 11, and Jacob Joseph-David, 11, all from Hillcrest School, carried clipboards covered with notes about the food samples.
"All of us are doing a report," Dahlia said.
The Hillcrest testers were writing about all the samples they tested -- they were discussing flavor, appearance, packaging and nutritional value. Not all the vendors had a nutritional analysis with their food, the three said.
"We didn't think that was all that great," Dahlia said.
But they did like most of the food. The three also liked getting a chance to chose their food, they said.
Student council members from Deerfield School finally had a wish come true. The student council members always bring up different topics about the cafeteria at their meetings, said Lynne Garito, the council sponsor.
"When this came about, I though somebody got the message," she said.
Several of the council members -- Callee Souders, 11; Taylor Inverarity, 10; Spencer Flannigan, 11; Jessica Sears, 11; and Travis Everett, 10 -- sat around a table tasting different ice cream treats.
"We get to choose," Travis said. "I can actually make a difference in what my school gets."
The students were getting a little full by the time they finished at all the tables, though.
"This is just food homework," Callee said. "If you can get this good of food in our cafeteria, nobody would mind filling out the forms.
"I really like the meat balls. I don't exactly like fish, but all the fish was pretty good."
-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.