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A Lot of Dippers on Their Way North

Leslie Earnest covers retail businesses and restaurants for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7832 and at leslie.earnest@latimes.com

The Bakersfield City School District has ordered 100,000 “Dippers” from Anaheim-based Dippy Foods Inc. to rotate occasionally onto its schools’ menus.

The prepackaged containers of chips, cheese and salsa were a hit with children in a recent taste test, said Terie Furtney, the district’s food service chief.

The district likes the product because it requires no preparation and has a 60-day shelf life, which means it comes in handy in an emergency.

Previously Bakersfield tried another Dippy Foods option--sweet cinnamon-flavored chips to be dipped in peanut butter and fruit preserves--but some parents thought the item had too much sugar, Furtney said.

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“They did not think it was an appropriate lunch,” she said. “But the kids love it.”

Dippy Foods said its product is designed with nutrition in mind. “Add a milk to it and it meets all the dietary requirements,” spokeswoman Heidi Hirst said.

Finding things that the children will eat is a major challenge for food-service workers, who must also meet federal nutritional guidelines. Custodians have the best fix on what’s popular with children, Furtney said, because they see what ends up in the trash.

“Spinach is really good for you,” she said, “but do they eat it?”

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Long Beach resident Jon Stevenson came up with the idea for the product in 1992, Hirst said, but Dippy Foods didn’t begin marketing it until 1997.

The sale to Bakersfield is the company’s biggest to date.

The Oakland Unified School District is also testing the product and has ordered 35,000 Dippers, the company said. Next, the company intends to try other markets, such as stadiums and correctional institutions.

And, jumping on the Y2K worry wagon, the company has announced a marketing strategy to pitch Dippers as an alternative food for storage in anticipation of computer-related troubles that could crop up on or after New Year’s Day.

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