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Ethnic flavors make their way to the K-12 cafeteria

Photograph: Shutterstock

It’s no surprise that many mainstream menu trends make their way to K-12 menus. After all, kids often eat what their parents enjoy, so it’s only a matter of time before dishes like Indian curries, Thai soups or Middle Eastern kebabs pop up in school cafeterias. And, according to a 2017 report from the School Nutrition Association, nearly 60% of school districts offer menu items that emphasizes flavors from international cuisines, like Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern flavors.

And if they’re not already, it’s reasonable to expect that more districts will add these types of dishes to ensure kids (and their parents) stay interested in the menu offerings (and in turn, pay for a school lunch). Mexican and Italian menu items are the most common in terms of ethnic menu items, but other cuisines, like Cajun, Middle Eastern and Asian foods, are being featured more and more. Best of all, there’s no need to be concerned about kids not being interested—some of the most common ethnic dishes popping up on K-12 menus are meals many kids may already be at least somewhat familiar with.

Check out a few recent ethnic food examples from K-12 menus around the country:

  • At Davidson County Schools in North Carolina, the May 2019 menu featured Orange Chicken, an Asian dish, served over rice.
  • Noxubee County School District in Mississippi served a few different ethnic dishes, including Chicken Fajitas, Cajun Catfish with Southern Turnip Greens and Taco Salad in a Bowl.
  • New York City Public Schools’ menus included dishes such as Bite Size Beef Tacos with Black Bean Salsa; Chicken Dumplings with Vegetable Fried Rice and Teriyaki Green Beans; and Chicken Parmigiana served with broccoli.

For operators who want to try something new on the K-12 menu, ethnic eats are where it’s at.

This post is sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice

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