SANFORD — If you must have fries with that, what’s healthier, sweet potato fries or bacon cheese fries? Should you stick with vanilla ice cream, at 72 calories for a modest serving, or dive into the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, at nearly double the calories for the same size serving?

And how about those foods that claim to be better for you ”“ how do they taste?

Freshmen students at Sanford High School explored those issues and more in the days leading up to Food Day, which they marked Wednesday afternoon with a tasting event at McDougal Orchards in Springvale.

To boost the health quotient, there were outdoor games for children and a 5K cross-country run and walk. Then students displayed their culinary skills, serving up a number of tasty ”“ and healthy ”“ treats.

The students prepared butternut squash soup, turkey chili, vegetarian chili, Italian pasta salad, apple crisp, pumpkin bread and more, and tried to make use of local ingredients as much as possible.

Sanford High School science teacher Kristie Baker said several students toiled for several hours the previous day preparing the food selection.

Ryan LaRose was among those preparing the food.

“I chopped a lot of vegetables for the chili and salad,” he said. LaRose said he thought Food Day was a good idea. He sampled the pasta salad ”“ “It tastes good,” he said.

Students published a cookbook with recipes of the dishes they’d prepared, and others made up posters comparing the calorie counts of various foods. Students looked at fast food calorie counts versus homemade selections, and examined like issues.

Food Day is a nationwide event created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and is a movement toward more healthy, affordable and sustainable food, according to its website.

The Food Day celebration at McDougal Orchards was one of several food-related events Wednesday. In Wells, several York County social service entities met to discuss ways to combat hunger in York County. In Biddeford, McArthur Library hosted a drop-in event for kids to encourage consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

In a prepared statement, Kristine Jenkins of Partners for a Hunger-Free York County said nearly 26,000 people in York County do not have access to enough food to sustain an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members.

About 10,000 children in York County are eligible for federally subsidized school lunches. The population of York County at the 2010 census was 197,131, according to the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission.

 — Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, Ext. 327 or [email protected].

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