Focus on alternative proteins to drive school meal sales

kids cafeteria lunch school foodservice

From Bush’s Best®.

Once again featured as a top-ten trend in the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2015 Culinary Forecast, healthful kid’s meals are here to stay. Healthy menus, considered an “umbrella trend,” are expected to continue to gain momentum in the next few years.

This trend isn’t news for school foodservice directors; operators have been revamping school nutrition since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed in 2010. But for some schools, the new regulations have affected sales as well as nutrition. In fact, in 2013, 46% of school operators surveyed said that their lunch sales had decreased in the past two years, according to FSD’s annual The Big Picture research.

Operators are turning to menu innovation to increase meal participation while serving foods that fit USDA guidelines at the same time. For some, serving alternative proteins, such as beans, at breakfast and at lunch has been a way to close that gap.

According to 2013’s The Big Picture, 54% of operators said they serve vegetable or bean-based hot entrées at lunch, and 41% expect those menu items to continue to grow over the next year. What’s more, this year, 64% of operators reported serving ethnic entrées (which could include items such as egg-based sandwiches or Latin-inspired bean burritos) at breakfast.

The versatility of bean-based entrées, along with their kid-approved taste, means these dishes can have a big payoff at all times of day. Thanks to several new products from Bush’s Best®, menuing these items is now easier than ever for operators.

  • Bush’s Best® Reduced Sodium Vegetarian Baked Beans. With 25% less sodium than the original Bush’s Best® Bean Pot Vegetarian Baked Beans, this reduced sodium variety can help satisfy kids’ palates and meet nutritional guidelines—something that’ can be easier said than done. “The challenge of reducing sodium in a product is meeting high customer expectations for taste and texture,” says Chef Rob D’Orsi of FoodIQ. “These baked beans satisfy those expectations and are ideal for use as a flavorful side dish or entrée.”
  • Bush’s Best® Taco Fiesta Black Beans. A fiesta for the senses, this black bean meal starter is as delicious as it is versatile. The dark, rich beans are immersed in a not-too-spicy sauce enhanced with a zesty mix of authentic Mexican seasonings, making them a natural pair for meat, seafood, vegetables or even other beans.
  • Bush’s Best® Cajun Red Beans. Bayou flavor comes knocking in this red bean easy entrée. The liveliness of the Cajun-style sauce might sneak up on you, but the many possibilities are easy to see. The flavor and versatility of these beans means that they’re an easy, ideal fit for any menu application.

In addition to providing flavor kids crave, these beans are also menu workhorses: Under current school nutrition standards, beans count as a legume, a vegetable or a meat alternative, and they’re required to be served once per week. This versatility makes them a natural fit for a wide variety of K-12 applications, both in the morning and at lunch. Here’s a few easy ways operators can incorporate these flavor-packed beans into menus:

  • Breakfast Bean Scramblers: Top grilled hash browns with fluffy scrambled eggs, Bush’s Best® Taco Fiesta Black Beans, and shredded cheddar cheese, giving breakfast a flavorful and fiber-packed boost.
  • Cajun Frank and Beans: This dish pays tribute to the humble beginnings of Cajun cuisine, with simple ingredients, but big flavor. Sliced, cooked turkey hot dogs are mixed in with Bush’s Best® Cajun Red Beans, and served over sweet and savory corn bread.
  • Baked Bean Quesadilla: Add Bush’s Best® Reduced Sodium Vegetarian Baked Beans to classic Mexican ingredients such as chopped tomatoes, fresh cilantro and diced jalapeños for a sweet, hearty take on this classic dish.

For more information and to get additional kid-friendly menu ideas, visit www.kidslikebeans.com.
 

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
fsd culinary council

Avocados are a staple on mainstream menus, yet many foodservice operations limit their use to guacamole, avocado toast, sandwiches and salads. The 12 chefs attending FoodService Director’s Culinary Council Summit, held this fall at University of Michigan, learned how to take avocados into new menu territory through a presentation by sponsor Avocados from Mexico and hands-on kitchen time with its chef, Brian Wilford.

Chef Wilford began with a demo of avo-chicharrons —fried avocado wedges coated with crushed chicharrons or pork rinds. He served these with Mexican crema for dipping,...

Industry News & Opinion

Time Magazine recently named Houston Independent School District (HISD) Officer of Nutrition Services Betti Wiggins one of its 50 most influential people in healthcare .

Wiggins joined HISD in 2017, overseeing the district’s nutrition program, which serves over 280,000 meals daily. During the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey last year, Wiggins helped serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to students and their families and played a role in making meals free for all students for the rest of the school year. Today, the district (the nation's seventh-largest) continues to provide meals to...

Industry News & Opinion
food as medicine market

University Hospitals in Cleveland has opened a new Food for Life Market, which will provide healthy food as a means to address chronic health conditions as well as the issue of food insecurity for patients and nearby residents.

University Hospitals will offer patients one week’s worth of food free of charge following a referral from their physician. Patients will also receive the option to meet with University Hospital dietitians who can help them with their dietary needs by encouraging optimal food choices.

Patients are also eligible to receive food assistance once a month...

Industry News & Opinion

Chartwells K12 has launched a program aimed at offering students more say in their meal options.

Schools participating in the program, called Student Choice, have debuted several new stations, such as Bok Choy, an Asian -themed concept inspired by celebrity chef Jet Tila, and Roost, which is chicken themed.

Each week, chefs serve samples of menu items from the stations to middle and high school students, who then get to vote on which of those items should appear on the menu the following week.

Chefs and dietitians will be on hand during sampling to share more...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code