Years ago not much thought was put into school cafeteria lunches; options were slim and quality was substandard at best. Over the last decade, school nutrition and health continue to become prominent. Nicholas and Company values the importance of school nutrition and understands the challenges of navigating nutritionals, labels and offerings. To better serve our schools we introduce you to our Schools Sales Specialist, Patty Giannopoulos.
Patty has been heavily involved with the food industry for over 25 years. She has always been passionate about food, but more recently turned her focus primarily onto healthy foods and nutrition. Patty is currently involved with several nutrition committees and sits on various School Lunch Program boards. She is vastly knowledgeable about school feeding programs and what items are the best fit for K-12 and university programs. This past summer Patty attended the School Nutrition Association’s Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Along with 6,500 other nutrition professionals from across the country, she learned what truly goes into school feeding programs and where industry trends are headed. From “Farm to School” and “How to Feed the Teenage Brain,” Patty spent four days immersed in topics that covered food allergies, scratch cooking, clean label menus and more.
Trends in School Cafeteria
In essence, the term “clean label” refers to foods and products that are as natural as possible. These foods are minimally processed and meet USDA standards for school cafeterias. Many of the companies at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference (ANC) are working to provide clean label products.
Sous-vide is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags then placed in a water bath or a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times. The beauty of sous-vide prepared meats for school cafeterias is the meat becomes thoroughly cooked at the proper temperatures meeting safety standards, but they can also have added flavors, spices and sauces allowing cafeterias to use the meats in many different preparations. For more info on Sous-Vide see our feature in 2016 Fall FoodTrends.
3. Limited Time Offer (LTO)
Cafeterias around the country are embracing this method of serving a new dish at least four different times a year to gauge students’ interests and determine if they should add it to their menus permanently. Some ideas include ethnic dishes, as well as unique and locally sourced in-season fruits and vegetables.
4. More Choices for Middle Schoolers
Middle school cafeteria professionals will tell you 1) students crave comfort food and 2) they want to kick their menus up a notch. This year more choose-your-own options will be offered, including salad bars with various condiments for tacos and alternative grill options. Of course, all options must still meet USDA standards for healthy meals but the variety and expanded choices will give kids more control over their food while also helping them begin to mature their palates.
5. Second Breakfast
High school cafeteria professionals notice many kids arriving really early for before school activities. Although most of these kids eat breakfast at home before practice, afterwards they’re quite hungry. They’ve missed the school breakfast line and their lunchtime is still hours away. Many schools across the country are implementing “second breakfast” to provide these kids with an additional opportunity to eat after practice and before school starts. Some use campus carts in highly trafficked areas with easy-to-grab fruits, juices, yogurts and protein bars to keep kids fueled for the school day ahead.
6. Farm to School
Farm to school initiatives are gaining traction around the country. Whether it’s school gardens producing fruits and veggies to serve in the cafeteria, or school programs to purchase more locally grown fruits, vegetables and other food, this is a continuing trend you’ll see grow in more schools around the country this year. Be sure to ask your Nicholas and Company sales representative for more information on our locally sourced products.
Want more information? Visit our Educational Nutrition page or contact Patty Giannopoulos at 801.530.5286