2013 K-12 Census: School districts struggle with elements of new meal regs

Participation, food cost higher at lunch than breakfast.

For this year’s K-12 Census, we decided to take a broader look at what’s going on in the child nutrition industry. Instead of focusing primarily on financial data, as has been done in the past, we delved deeper into the biggest challenge facing school foodservice: the USDA’s new meal pattern. In the following census, you’ll learn how child nutrition professionals are coping so far with the new regulations, in addition to some baseline data (including food cost per meal and participation rates) so you can benchmark your district to those similar in size and region. In keeping with the recipes theme of the Feb. 2013 issue, we’ve also included some recipes that meet the new meal regs to help spark some menu ideas for your own operation.

K-12 Census At a Glance

  • There are 115 school districts in our survey.
  • 92% are self-operated; 6% contract managed; 2% partly self-op and partly contract managed.
  • All districts in our survey are on the National School Lunch Program, although three high schools (grades 9-12) are not on the NSLP.
  • The average number of schools in a district is 39.

Staying within calorie ranges is one of the requirements that operators say is the most difficult of the new regulations to meet. (The other highest-ranking challenge, the maximum for grains, has been eliminated.) We asked operators to rank several aspects of the new meal pattern on a six-point scale, with six being extremely challenging and 1 being not at all challenging.

Our findings indicate that operators were likely exchanging high fives after the USDA eliminated the grains maximum, which happened after our survey was completed. Sixty-nine percent of operators rated staying within allowable grain ranges a 6 or 5, making this the requirement that operators found most challenging.

Staying within calorie ranges was the second most vexing issue, according to operators. Sixty percent gave this a 6 or 5 rating. Districts with fewer than 100,000 students were significantly more likely to be challenged by staying within calorie ranges compared to districts with more than 100,000 students (64% versus 13%, respectively)

The third most challenging regulation was planning menus based on age/grade groups. Forty-three percent of operators rated this a 6 or 5.

Other new meal pattern requirements were not as onerous. Only 39% of operators scored meeting meat/meat alternatives as a 6 or 5 on the scale, while 31% gave meeting whole-grain requirements those ratings. New fruit and vegetable requirements also scored low. Twenty-one percent of respondents ranked increasing the variety of produce as a 6 or 5, and only 20% report increasing the serving size of fruits with one of the top two rankings.

On the positive front, 80% of operators say meeting the new milk regs is not at all challenging. Schools in the South, however, are significantly more likely to report this as a burden. In addition, 41% of respondents say implementing food-based menu planning is not at all challenging.  

Related Recipes

Roasted Turkey Over Pear and Strawberry Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Campfire Side Salad

Braised Kale

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

In a bid to beef up its presence in sports arenas and a variety of other large venues, Sodexo will acquire foodservice vendor Centerplate for $675 million.

Sodexo says the deal, which is expected to be finalized by the end of this year, will more than double its global footprint.

Centerplate, which serves as the foodservice operator for a number for stadiums, convention halls and other event spaces, brought in revenues of $998 million for the year ending June 2017, according to Sodexo. Centerplate was purchased five years ago by Olympus Partners, a private-equity company...

Menu Development
eggs

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

FSD Resources