Healthy beverages to beat the bottled water blues

Portland, Ore., is added to the list of schools with lead contamination problems.

Published in FSD Update

Dana Moran, Managing Editor

juices smoothies drinks

With Portland, Ore., in June joining the list of cities with high levels of lead in its school drinking water, it seems no district is immune to the problem. USA Today recently analyzed EPA data to discover that almost 350 schools and day care centers failed lead tests 470 times from 2012-2015, the Los Angeles Times reports; one Maine elementary school came in at 41 times the EPA’s lead action level of 15 parts per billion.

Shutting off water fountains and switching students to bottled beverages has been the de rigueur safety move at schools from New Jersey to Chicago to Flint, Mich., whose governor signed a bill Wednesday tripling state spending on the crisis. But for those school FSDs looking to add a little more flavor to the school day, these healthy beverages—popular with other operators—should fit the bill.

Plant-based beverages

Soy, almond, rice and oat milks aren’t just for students with dairy allergies. At University Center in Chicago, soy milk has been a menu staple for five years, says Larry Posen, senior executive chef and culinary director. Available in handy grab-and-go containers, the milks also can be used to replace water in soups for a creamier preparation.

Infused waters

For schools that already provide students with reusable water bottles, this idea can be a real morale booster. Parkhurst at Highmark, a corporate-dining contractor in Pittsburgh, Pa., recently added a chilled lemon-, spearmint- and strawberry-infused water featuring lemon balm, capitalizing on the season’s fresh produce, says chef Cameron Clegg.

Smoothies and juices

While producing fresh versions of these beverages does require more equipment and effort, the payoffs can be big. A recent Beverage Consumer Trend Report from market researcher Technomic finds that away-from-home sales of vegetable and fruit juices are expected to increase in frequency through 2016. At California State University in Fullerton, “The menu items really have become more of a meal replacement” at two Juice It Up units, says Campus Dining Director Tony Lynch. Juices and smoothies also are a perfect vehicle for customization.

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Buckeye Union High School District in Buckeye, Ariz., has introduced monthly chef demos to encourage students to try different foods as well as healthy eating habits, AZ Family reports.

Each month, chefs conduct a lunchtime demo in the cafeteria at the district’s three high schools. After viewing the demo, students are then encouraged to sample some of the dish that was prepared.

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