Students encouraged to beat the heat with cucumber-themed menu

Young diners enjoyed special themed items, including a cucumber orange ginger juice.
The Fresh Picks cucumber display at Benson Unified
The special menu was part of K-12 by Elior's Fresh Picks program. | Photo courtesy of K-12 by Elior

The nutrition team at Benson Unified School District in Benson, Ariz., welcomed students back to school this July with an array of cucumber-themed menu items to help them stay refreshed as temperatures swelled. 

The special dishes were offered in part because of Fresh Picks, a longstanding program from K-12 by Elior that spotlights a different healthy ingredient each month. 

“[It’s] a value-added engagement program for all schools, and so it's going to highlight seasonal produce each month and it encourages having more fruits and vegetables,” says K-12 by Elior Director of Nutrition and Wellness Abby Olson. 

While Fresh Picks always includes at least one recipe, Food Service Director Adam Gentles decided to take the promo a step further and created additional options for students to try.

“Usually when I do that, I see a lot more interaction and a lot more participation with the students,” he says. “They come up and ask about each dish.”

Getting students engaged

For Fresh Picks’ cucumber promo, K-12 by Elior provided a recipe for homemade pickles. Due to the sweltering heat Arizona was then experiencing, Gentles decided to come up with two additional items he thought would help students cool off—a cucumber salsa and cucumber orange ginger juice. 

The juice, in particular, was popular with students, with many coming back for seconds and asking if it could be served every day for breakfast, says Gentles. 

“The students thought that was the greatest thing to see when they had to walk all the way down from their classrooms because they have to journey outside to get to the cafeteria,” he says. 

While the juice received much of the fanfare, students also gave winning marks to the pickles, and the older students enjoyed topping their burgers, salads and sandwiches with the salsa. 

“At the end of the day, we pretty much ran out of everything to sample, so it was good,” says Gentles. 

Dealing with rising temps 

As the school year rolls on, Gentles says he will continue to use the Fresh Picks program to offer creative and fun items for students. 

Serving dishes that help students keep cool is also top of mind. When temperatures have soared in the past, Gentles has offered an array of hydrating dishes, including a zucchini salad and cranberry smoothies. 

“Throughout the year, I'll still put out a lot of fresh and refreshing meals when it comes to beverages, as well as salads and cold entrees as well,” he says. 



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