The state of K-12 foodservice: Expanding student palates

School FSDs are finding inspiration in global cuisine, trendy foods and plant-forward dishes.
Illustration: Shutterstock

Though procurement issues and labor challenges show no signs of stopping, that hasn’t prevented some school nutrition professionals from introducing new menu items.

At Christopher Unit School District 99 in Christopher, Ill., Food Service Director Tricia Calloni plans to branch out the menu after she last year noticed students enjoying different types of produce, such as Brussels sprouts and asparagus, as part of the USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

“It's amazing how many kids really liked that stuff,” she says. “So I thought, well, maybe we try some different types of food.”

If the supply chain cooperates, the nutrition team will aim to serve a different global cuisine, such as Mexican or Italian, each Wednesday or Friday.

60% of operators are offering more pre-packaged or speed-scratch items to make up for lost staff. 

At Fayetteville City Schools in Fayetteville, Tenn., Food Service Director Megan Hall also looks to introduce students to new foods and flavors. One of the recipes she’s excited to try is a Mexican lasagna, which she thinks will be relatable enough that students will try it but will also give them the opportunity to have something different.

What’s on the menu 

Here’s a look at some other dishes school nutrition teams are planning to serve in the coming school year.

“We are doing more noodle and rice bowls with fresh ingredients and capitalizing on market trends like Nashville hot.”

Dennis Mueller
Director of Dining Services
Ashburnham Westminster Regional School District
Ashburnham, Mass.

“We are excited to add a new alfredo pasta, tender pork chop and fruit smoothies to the menu next school year!”

Zoe Crego
Program Manager for Nutrition Education and Training
Broward County Public Schools
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“More ‘food bar’ days: Taco bar, wing bar, mac n cheese bar, etc. … Salad bars back at our elementary schools will get them eating vegetables again.”

Doris Demers
Food Service Director
Oyster River Cooperative School District
Durham, N.H. 

“More plant protein options—pea crumble tacos, ‘meat’ sauce and pumpkin seed pesto.”

Maria Anderson
Nutrition Coordinator
Roseville Area Schools
Roseville, Minn.

Read more of our 2022 State of K-12 Foodservice report.



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