Portland Public Schools receive healthy cafeteria revamp

Almost one-third of Portland Public Schools serve locally sourced foods.

Oct. 17—Move over, corn dogs and Tater Tots.

Make way for winter squash, grass-fed beef and antibiotic-free chicken.

If your kids eat school lunch at Portland Public Schools these days, they might be eating better than you.

Whether you realize it or not, a number of farm-to-school initiatives have been creeping their way onto Junior’s lunch tray.

First there was the initiative to buy locally raised and sourced products: everything from Alpenrose milk to two-day-fresh Unger Farms strawberries. Nearly a third of all Portland Public School cafeteria foods are now sourced locally.

Then came Harvest of the Month seven years ago, an effort to celebrate a local fruit or veggie, educate kids about it, and promote it on the menu.  

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Ideas and Innovation
chicken and waffles

Our elementary menu is currently riding the breakfast-anytime advertising trend by offering Breakfast for Lunch every Tuesday. It ranks as our highest participation, and it was a great way for us to introduce chicken and waffles inspired by an IHOP dish.

Ideas and Innovation
dress code geeks

Team uniforms are a way we encourage fun. I tell the mangers that every person on your team needs to look like a member of your team, but they can decide together what they want to wear. When the students see a cafeteria person that is matching and having fun with their outfits, they relate to those people better. We don’t want them to look stiff and stuffy.

Menu Development
meatloaf slices plate

“This is the best meatloaf I’ve ever had,” a diner at Alcatel-Lucent telecommunications in Naperville, Ill., once told chef Iraj Fernando. The dish was rooted in a tried-and-true source—the “Betty Crocker Cookbook.”

“I just seasoned the breadcrumbs differently, used fresh parsley and beat the eggs to make them frothier,” says Fernando, executive chef and manager for Southern Foodservice Management.

Consumer interest is up for classic and comforting meat dishes like meatballs (16%), beef pot pie (26%) and meatloaf (12%) for dinner now compared to two years ago, shows...

Ideas and Innovation
oxford school district cafeteria

We have spent considerable money making cafeterias cool again. New paint jobs, crazy color patterns, custom graphics and changes in lighting schemes have made some of our cafes popular gathering places. We’ve also experimented with videos, cable TV programs and music. We involved a number of student groups and student input in improving the atmosphere, especially in our high school and middle school cafeterias.

FSD Resources