Aramark converts school cafeterias into food courts

Hamilton, N.J. district will see redesigns “segmented by grade level” in its 24 schools

HAMILTON, N.J. — Instead of sloppy joes and lukewarm pizza, students this year will instead be handed new menus offering made-to-order items like fajitas and sandwiches as the district’s new food vendor tries to turn school cafeterias into food courts and cafés.

“What you’ll see on the menu are not only foods that are compliant with federal and state guidelines, but ahead of food trends everywhere,” said Andrew Levy, district manager for Aramark, which is about to begin offering lunch to more than 12,000 students at 24 schools in the school district.

The board hired Aramark as its new food vendor in May on a one-year contract worth an estimated $521,000, depending on how many meals are served.

Aramark’s goal is to turn the school cafeteria into a “retail food court” concept, a place where students are drawn to healthier food options as their parents become more savvy about the nutritional content of their children’s lunches.