Culinary Trends in School Nutrition

As School Nutrition Program regulations have evolved over the past few years, school nutrition directors are taking innovative approaches to culinary trends to enhance the appeal of healthy foods to students to improve participation.

Explore K-12 culinary trends, food presentation techniques and flavor profiles with student appeal to enhance school meals and encourage increased participation with JSI’s new workshop, Infusing Flavor and Flair in School Meals. The workshop is being offered at all five SNA of MA chapter meetings.

  1. Themed meal stations provide options, allowing students a greater degree of meal customization. Some examples that schools are offering include yogurt bars, pasta bars, burrito stations, salad bars, Asian noodle bars, deli stations, and mac and cheese bars.
    Burrito Bar at Bigelow Middle School, Newton, MA.

    Burrito Bar at Bigelow Middle School, Newton, MA

    Deli Bar at Tigard-Tualatin School District, Tigard, OR.

    Deli Bar at Tigard-Tualatin School District, Tigard, OR

  2. Fruit displays are attention grabbing and encourage students to choose a fruit component. Improve the knife handling skills of your school nutrition staff with JSI’s hands-on Workshop to Go Knife Skills: Be a Cut Above the Rest! This workshop teaches different types of cuts, blade sharpening skills, garnishing techniques, and safety precautions.
    Hartnett Middle School, Blackstone, MA.

    Hartnett Middle School, Blackstone, MA

    fruit display 2

    Meigs Middle School, Shalimar, FL

    Quaker Valley Schools Sewickley, PA

    Quaker Valley Schools Sewickley, PA

  3. Meat alternate entrees are gaining popularity as a cost effective and sustainable school meal. Many schools have joined the worldwide Meatless Mondays Movement and are offering students meat alternate entrées every Monday to encourage more sustainable food choices. JSI’s Back to Basics: Meat Alternates Workshop to Go can provide you and your team ideas on how to serve more beans, legumes, yogurt, eggs and other meat alternates that look good and taste great. This hands-on culinary class demonstrates easy cooking techniques for meat alternates that you will be proud to serve.

    Fiesta Burrito Bowl Coppell ISD, TX

    Fiesta Burrito Bowl Coppell ISD, TX

  4. Flavor stations have been implemented in many lunchrooms. Flavor stations are simple, stations or carts containing various spices and condiments that allow students to add their individual palette-pleasing flavors to their meals such as hot sauce, red pepper flakes, basil, and garlic and herb seasoning.
    Flavor station in Billerica, MA

    Flavor station in Billerica, MA

    Flavor station in Decorah, IA

    Flavor station in Decorah, IA

  5. Scratch and speed scratch cooking methods have regained popularity in school nutrition programs as regulations have gotten stricter. Scratch and speed scratch cooking allows school nutrition programs to make ingredient substitutions in recipes that would otherwise not meet the standards while also cutting food costs. JSI’s Back to Basics Workshops to Go are a series of 3-hour culinary trainings developed for school nutrition staff to expand culinary skills and promote healthier, made from scratch and speed scratch, menu options to meet the meal pattern requirements. Scratch cooking recipes and menus for school nutrition programs can be found on the Recipe page of the JSI Resource Center. JSI’s Recipe Tool can be used to analyze snack recipes made at your school to determine if they meet both the state and federal nutrition standards for snacks.

Image credit: The images used in this post were found on the School Meals that Rock Pinterest page.

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