POCOMOKE – Eighth-grader Abby Boyce doesn’t usually buy school lunch.
She’s willing to start if Pocomoke Middle School offers more of what she tasted Wednesday.
“This is pretty good,” she said after trying a chicken sandwich flavored with a sweet potato spread.
The dish was one of several showcased during Pocomoke Middle School’s first-ever “Sauce it up” challenge. Principal Matthew Record showed off his culinary skills against those of Odtis Collins, food services director for Worcester County Public Schools.
“It’s just a friendly competition between me and the principal,” Collins said.
He and Record each created dishes that featured chicken, which is typically served in county schools twice a week. Collins decided to pick something healthy, sweet potatoes, and put a spin on it. He created a spread made of sweet potatoes, pineapple juice and applesauce. He served it two ways, as a dip with tortilla chips and as a condiment on a chicken sandwich.
“I’m letting them see there are choices other than ketchup and mustard which are high in sugar,” Collins said, adding that each serving of the spread contained a whole day’s worth of Vitamin A.
Record told students watching Wednesday’s challenge that he’d started his dish with a jar of store bought salsa. He aimed to make it a bit healthier by adding vegetables of his own.
“That’s something you could do at home,” Record said.
He served students sliced chicken with either tomato salsa, pepper salsa or pineapple salsa.
Students, brimming with curiosity as soon as they saw their principal preparing food in the hallway, eagerly lined up for taste testing. Pocomoke Middle’s Student Government Association representatives and homeroom representatives helped serve and tally votes. Boyce, who was assisting at Collins’ table, said she wanted to help with the challenge as soon as she heard about it.
“I thought it was cool and our school doesn’t get to do much like this,” she said.
Seventh-grader Lauren Moses, who helped Record serve salsa, was also excited about the concept.
“I thought it was a neat idea and we’d be able to go out of our comfort zone,” she said.
Student Ethan Ayer took a more practical view of the event.
“It’s just like when you go to Walmart and get to get a free sample,” he said.
In the end, Collins was crowned the winning chef by student vote. He said Wednesday’s event did just what it was meant to.
“It’s introducing a new product, having kids taste the product and then decide if it meets their approval so we can add it to the menu,” he said.