Chefs' Council: Surprising lessons from K-12 diners

kid fruit salad

Q: FoodService Director’s Chefs’ Council members answer, “What’s the most surprising foodservice lesson you’ve learned from your K-12 diners?”


A: When I entered the K-12 channel 15 years ago, I think what surprised me the most was how sophisticated the consumers were. With the information available via the Internet, students have become incredibly sophisticated. They understand the value of a product; they have high expectations of the atmosphere and food quality. I think the most surprising in the mix is how much they want to understand where their food is coming from. Students today are interested in reading ingredient labels. They have an understanding of organic products, as well as added hormones, etc. Clean labels are the future of food, driven by very sophisticated, young, diverse consumers.

Vincent Scimone
Director, Child Nutrition
Grossmont Union High School District
El Cajon, Calif.


A: The most surprising thing I have learned is that no matter what level the student is, from kindergarten to high school, they want to create their own experience. From menu input to food samples to new recipe creation to harvest bars (salad bars), students embrace change more when they are involved in the process. It’s a nice reminder to always be inclusive when making changes to their food choices.

Jason Morse
Chef
5280 Culinary, LLC
Highlands Ranch, Colo. 


A:  Our students want to try new things. I am constantly surprised by the willingness and excitement over a new fruit or vegetable and new combinations of foods. I think that we adults underestimate the adventurous eaters of our schools!

Callie Fowler
District Executive Chef
Union Public Schools
Tulsa, Okla.


A: Coming from the private sector 15 years ago, I was surprised (and continue to be driven by) how important K-12 child nutrition is, not just in the support of education but, for many, basic nutrition (getting enough nutritious food each week).

Brent Trudeau
Executive Chef & Production Manager
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD
Houston


A: The most surprising lesson I’ve learned from our K-12 diners is the kiddos’ willingness to try healthier options like braised kale and quinoa, and their knowledge of food cultures and nutrition. It’s been a very educational experience for me as a chef to see so many young students open to trying new ethnic food options. 

Eli Huff
Owner/Executive Chef
SFG. (SaltFoodGroup) Consulting LLC.
Tulsa, Okla.


A: The most surprising thing that I have learned from my K-12 diners is that they crave variety and new experiences.  While this is not too surprising to hear about older students, it was rather surprising to hear from elementary students, “We want more than chicken nuggets and pizza.” I think that the increased availability of information and the popularity of shows like “Master Chef Jr.” has children paying attention to their food much more intently and at a younger age.

Kevin C. Frank
District Chef
Detroit Public Schools

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