PHOENIX (AP) - Dealing with a strict state law banning junk food and soda, creative educators have thought of a way to feed students chunks of potatoes that aren't fried.
Because of the new state law prohibiting fried food, soft drinks and junk food in K-8 schools during the school day, French fries are off-limits. But now, many school districts think banning French fries - a staple for many youngsters - is simply too much, and are whipping up imitation fries as a consolation prize.
The low-fat impostors go by various names, including oven wedge, oven fry and potato stick. They're baked and have fewer calories.
"They're not bad," said Kelby Lytle, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Payne Junior High School in Queen Creek "But I still like the old ones better. These are mushier."
Chandler Unified and Mesa Public Schools are among the districts that replaced French fries with baked ones this year. Fries were taken off the regular lunch menu at many schools years ago because of federal limits on fat and calories. But schools could get around this restriction by selling them as a side item.
Arizona's new state law requires that all food sold during the school day in K-8 schools meet certain nutrition standards.
A lot of thought went into the baked fries.
Wes Delbridge, a Chandler Unified food and nutrition supervisor, taste-tested different brands and passed out samples to employees to get their opinions. He said the fries had to bake quickly, not turn soggy under warming lights and, above all, taste good. Except for being lighter in color, the final version looks just like a real fry, although it lacks the old fries' crunch and full-flavored, oily taste.
The oven wedges at Payne Junior High have half the fat and 25 percent fewer calories than French fries.
A 4-ounce bag goes for $1, the same price as the French fries used to run.
Some kids say they're pleased with the change.
"They're good. I love them," said seventh-grader Brock Davis