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The state of K-12 foodservice: Modifying the menu

Due to pandemic-related challenges, school nutrition teams have been keeping menus simple this year.
Illustration: FSD staff

Faced with low meal counts, procurement challenges and large amounts of commodity products to use up, school nutrition teams are keeping menus simple this year, and many FSD survey respondents say they’ve stuck with the tried and true.

“[Students] want the items that were familiar to them in the past like pizza and tacos with all the toppings,” says Jessica Murray, director of food services at West Central School Corporation in Francesville, Ind. “They want to feel as normal as possible.”

Kasja Larson, food service director for Adams 14 School District in Commerce City, Colo., agrees. “Unfortunately, we are not looking at many new products,” Larson says. “Since our participation is down due to remote learning, we are just trying to use the commodity pounds we have allocated to us in creative ways.”

55% of respondents say product procurement has been difficult amid COVID-19.

At Gibraltar Area Schools in Fish Creek, Wis., school nutrition specialist Carla Marr is tackling lower meal counts by giving larger portions and swapping commodities with neighboring districts. “If it isn't commodities, it isn't on the menu,” she says. 

Fan faves

Side salads have become a hit at Bloom Carroll Schools in Carroll, Ohio, according to Marilyn Enyart, food service supervisor. “They used to be on the cold table and the students scooped themselves,” she says. “Now, they are put into individual containers with croutons, and the count on side salads has tripled.”

A more indulgent item has become a “new favorite” at Quaboag Regional School District in Warren, Mass, says Food Service Director Melissa Mansfield: mac and cheese with pulled pork. And at Crestview Local Schools in Ashland, Ohio, the district’s online academy students have been enjoying a weekly “make your own pizza” day, where they receive two flatbreads, a cup of marinara and two cheese sticks to assemble their pies, as well as fresh broccoli and fresh fruit.

See the full results of FSD's second annual survey on the state of K-12 foodservice.

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