A new year means new dining trends, and Metz Culinary Management has compiled three that it expects will shape K-12 offerings throughout 2023.
Here’s a look at each trend and how the food management company has been incorporating it into their operations.
Tackling childhood obesity
Obesity affects around 14.7 million children and adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This year, Metz is continuing to introduce healthier foods to students and making efforts to expose them to different cuisines.
For students who may be hesitant to try something new, the Metz team relies on tastings, which allow students to sample new dishes instead of having to commit to a full meal. One popular item the team debuted this school year is zucchini noodles.
“If it looks like a noodle and it eats like a noodle, kids generally will accept it,” says Metz Division Chef for K-12 and B&I Adam Carlson.
The team has also been working on expanding its plant-based offerings and has introduced dishes such as a smoky three-bean chili as well as a “fried” cauliflower steak that is hand-breaded, baked and served with a white gravy.
Rising food prices
Food costs are a concern for school nutrition operators and finding ways to keep costs down will be key throughout 2023, says Metz.
One way the food management company is keeping its financials in check is by turning to seasonal ingredients sourced nearby, which are often found at a reasonable cost.
“Whenever it's available, our goal is to incorporate the local product, as well as let our students know through signage that it comes from a local farm or orchard or whatever the case is,” says Metz Senior Vice President Jim Dixon.
They’re also reverting to using reusable dishes and dining ware after switching to disposables during the height of the pandemic.
Using disposables used to be cheaper due to not having to hire a dishwasher, Carlson said but that has changed recently.
“Now, with the cost of disposables and plastics and everything going up, that's not really the case,” he says.
Along with its cost-saving perks, switching to china and silverware also makes a more memorable dining experience for students, the team says.
Nutrition programs that target students
Furthering the connection between nutrition and the classroom will be prevalent this year.
Metz offers a variety of nutrition education classes at every grade level. Most often, Metz Nutrition Educator Madison Wurst will partner with Carlson on a education session in the classroom followed by food sampling.
In the past, Wurst and Carlson have teamed up to do tastings of pumpkin pie hummus and different fruits such as dragon fruit and star fruit.
The programs are also certified, allowing teachers to receive classroom credit for their time.
“No teacher likes to lose classroom time, so to speak,” says Dixon. “So, when they can get this education and it counts as credits, it’s a win for everybody.”