Quick and Practical K-5 School Foodservice Advice

Karen J. Peterson, SNS (School Nutrition Specialist) provides our readers with helpful tips to lessen the frustration and challenges facing K-5 kitchens.

Helpful tips for K-5 school foodservice
Founder and president of Lunchline, Inc.

We are privileged to have Karen J. Peterson, SNS (School Nutrition Specialist) provide our readers with helpful tips to lessen the frustration and challenges commonly faced in K-5 kitchens. Karen is a 25 + year veteran of the foodservice industry. She is currently serving as founder and president of Lunchline, Inc. a company dedicated to the K-12 market channel.

Tip #1 – Sometimes K-5 students need encouragement to eat their veggies! There are always the perennial favorites: ranch dressing, salsa and hummus. But how about some fun?  Broccoli easily transforms into baby trees or dinosaur food and cauliflower becomes brains – PERFECT for Halloween!

Tip #2 – Picky eaters are a real concern in foodservice. After all, it attributes to less kids buying school lunch and/or throwing much of the lunch away and going hungry for the remainder of the day. Trying new foods needs to be about nutritional benefits. Associate fun symbols with foods so kids will understand why they need to eat them – calcium for stronger bones, beta-carotene essential for vision, fiber for digestive health, and lower sodium for a healthy heart.

Tip #3 – Does K-12 menu planning have you fussy?  Planning healthy, nutritious, attractive and compliant menus are more challenging today than ever before.  If there is no access to a third-party system, try the old-fashioned buddy system with neighboring districts, manufacturers, or state resources. Collaborating is COOL!
Tip #4 – There are many benefits to K-12 cafeterias cooking from scratch, however, how practical is it given the time, budgetary and quantity limitations? The benefits to scratch cooking are numerous and convincing: lower food cost, eye appeal, ingredient control, allergy concerns, student input, local trends and employee morale. The challenges sometimes outweigh the benefits: employee training/skill level, labor cost, cooking equipment, time, food safety and consistency. My advice is to investigate speed scratch dry-mix products like gravy and sauce mixes. These items are mixed with water and ready in seconds, saving you time and eliminating consistency worries. They are also sodium conscience as well as being gluten, shellfish and nut free. Check out Foothill Farms Flavorwise product line http://foothillfarms.com/k12/about_flavorwise.cfm.
Tip #5 – Want to increase your participation in your schools? Take a hint from Costco (or other similar retailers) and have sample days. Kids look forward to visiting mall food courts and big wholesalers on weekends because they know the sample stations are in full operation! How often do you end buying whatever is tasted? What an excellent way to introduce new foods to your students!
Tip #6 – Cafeteria theme days are fun and easy implementations for school lunch. What comes to mind when you think about your days at summer camp (other than pesky mosquitoes)? Good old fashion fun along with a hearty appetite for breakfast, lunch and dinner! After all, there isn’t much snacking at summer camp!  Turn your elementary lunchroom into “base camp cafe” with each classroom creating a camp flag.  Display the flags in flag holders mounted on the wall if indoors or on stanchions if outdoors.
Tip #7 – Are the new regs causing pressure from parents, administrators, as well as students? People often react to what they don’t know or understand.  Consider hosting a “food show” where everyone can see and taste the food currently on the menu and evaluate possible new additions.  Input is a powerful equalizer!
Tip #8 – Accommodating special diets can be overwhelming. You’ve collected all the paper work – now what?  For inspiration, visit your local hospital’s dietary program. Meet with the people responsible for menu creation and gather ideas that can translate into your operation.  Also, consider setting aside a small prep area that is used for special diets only.

Karen holds an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota and a B.S. in Foods and Nutrition from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. She has also earned her SNS (School Nutrition Specialist) credential from SNA. If you have a question for Karen or Foothill Farms, please leave us a comment and we’ll get back with you soon.

K-12 Recipe Challenge – Earn Airline Gift Cards for ANC

The Foothill Farms® K-12 Recipe Challenge kicked off this April and runs until September 30, 2014. Foodservice professionals may submit up to four recipes during the promotional period, earning a $100 airline gift card per recipe submission. This is not a contest, but rather a reward for submitting unique recipes using Foothill Farms® products. The gift cards can be used for any type of travel and is not limited to ANC.

We want to help send more school foodservice professionals to School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference (ANC) July 13-16, 2014 in Boston or July 12-15, 2015 in Salt Lake City . The Foothill Farms® K-12 Recipe Challenge kicked off this April and runs until September 30, 2014. Foodservice professionals may submit up to four recipes during the promotional period, earning a $100 airline gift card per recipe submission. This is not a contest, but rather a reward for submitting unique recipes using Foothill Farms® products. The gift cards can be used for any type of travel and is not limited to ANC.

Foothill Farms® designed this challenge to entice more school foodservice professionals to try dry-blend, speed scratch products. It’s helpful to see how foodservice professionals utilize the K-12 product line in their daily menu planning. Directors, dieticians, managers or other foodservice employees may submit recipes. They do not have to be existing customers. The basic requirements for recipe challenge submissions are: original recipe, recipe name, ingredient list and ingredient measurements, complete preparation/cooking instructions, complete nutritional information, and meal pattern information. One of the ingredients must be a Foothill Farms® product.

Each submitter can choose which airline they would like to use for travel: Southwest, American Airlines, Delta, United or US Airways. The challenge is designed for individual submissions, however, if two people work on the recipe together, Foothill Farms® will split the gift card amount and distribute a $50 gift card to each person. Gift cards are awarded upon receipt and verification of the recipe. The recipes cannot resemble the recipes currently on Foothill Farms® website. For more specific challenge information, please visit the Foothill Farms® website www.foothillfarms.com/k12 or contact customer service at 800-442-5242. Schools that have submitted recipes will be announced via our social media pages. To find out which schools and what recipes, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

DOWNLOAD THE ENTRY FORM – CLICK HERE!

Rest Easy this Summer: Plan Your K-12 2014/15 Menu Now!

Begin your summer grilling and chilling with the peace of mind your K-12 menu is already mapped out for the 2014-2015 school year. Foothill Farms® easily takes menu planning to meal execution by offering a bevy of dressing, seasoning and sauce mixes that can take you through the year with ease

Begin your summer grilling and chilling with the peace of mind your K-12 menu is already mapped out for the 2014-2015 school year. Foothill Farms® easily takes menu planning to meal execution by offering a bevy of dressing, seasoning and sauce mixes that can take you through the year with ease. If you spend hours worrying about sodium levels, don’t worry about our Flavorwise™ product line. It was created to be flavorful yet sodium conscious. Each product has 310 mg sodium or less per serving, 0g trans fat, is low fat or fat free and contains no cholesterol or added MSG.

AUGUST

For starters, keep kids’ memories of delicious summer barbeques alive in August by going back-to-school with BBQ Teriyaki Meatballs with Asian Noodles on the lunch menu. Our BBQ Teriyaki Sauce Mix and Asian Noodle Seasoning combine with water chestnuts, turkey meatballs, and whole grain spaghetti to make a dish that sizzles. Another smart end-of-summer choice that accompanies Mexican-inspired entrees like tacos or nachos is our Corn and Black Bean Salsa.

Corn & Black Bean Salsa
Corn Salsas

Serve it with corn tortilla chips and the kids will say “gracias”! If your students are not quite ready to give up burgers, keep them interested and surprised with a sweet and savory Teriyaki Pineapple Sauce on top of a turkey patty. To satisfy fresh vegetable requirements, serve raw vegetables with a rich BBQ Ranch dip or use it to dress a traditional side salad.

SEPTEMBER

As the summer menu wraps up, consider popular Asian dishes to keep the menu infused with flavorful rice and noodle options. Asian Style-Walking Tacos keep nutrition headed for a tasty destination with its cabbage, diced chicken and whole grain Asian noodle ingredients. Our Asian Noodle seasoning can help you easily master a popular Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fry Rice or create a scrumptious General Tso’s Chicken with Asian Noodles. Our low-sodium Flavorwise™ original Stir Fry Sauce mix can even turn pizza into Stir Fry Pizza– a simple and instant yummy upgrade!

OCTOBER THRU FEBRUARY

As cooler autumn and winter temperatures prevail, warm and hearty soups bring comfort when there is a chill in the air. Soups such as Taco Soup, Minestrone, or a classic Broccoli Cheddar keep students satisfied with wholesome ingredients. Cincinnati 3-Way Chili with its Greek influence and rich cinnamon and clove undertones, deepens the use of Chili Seasoning Mix, which also makes an amazingly simple turkey chili. Just add some topping choices of shredded cheese, crackers, or maybe even a touch of sour cream to make these soups and chili recipes shine even brighter. Fall brings the opportunity to use seasonal cranberries, but with a fun twist. Foothill Farms® Cranberry Salsa recipe incorporates the heat of jalapeños and the sweetness of cranberry which can be used as a dip or a wrap.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Broccoli Cheddar Soup

MARCH THRU APRIL

Thinking of how to wrap up winter dishes and bring in spring flair? Wraps and sandwiches are a fresh way to showcase Foothill Farms® sauce mixes such as Cilantro Lime Rice seasoning mix. This mix features chopped cilantro and a tropical lime twist that pairs well with either white or brown rice becoming the base for a healthy, lighter wrap. Lettuce wraps, with your choice of healthy ingredients, can also be featured in the early months of the year topped with a creamy Avocado Ranch Dressing. Buttermilk, avocado, lime juice, and mayonnaise flavors combine to create a more flavorful, but still nutritious, ranch dressing. Another light dish that creates the perfect food vehicle for encouraging kids to eat their beans is Foothill Farms® Hummus. Chick peas or great northern beans are the base for this delicious dip which can be served with fresh vegetables or crackers.

MAY THRU JUNE

As the end of the year approaches, let Latin twists take you to summer with delicious fajitas made with Asado Style Fajita Seasoning Mix (Low Sodium). Succulent chicken, beef, turkey or pork take on slow-roasted flavors which feature onions, chile peppers, and paprika. Don’t forget the salsa! Change up everyday salsa by adding fresh tomatoes, beans, or corn to our Salsa Seasoning Mix. The mix is equally great with fruit! Pineapples, peaches, pears, and mangos are a few of our recommendations. Keep the theme Latin inspired with Cheese Enchilada Mini Pierogies which is an easy way to keep the menu both nutritious and simple to prepare.

YEAR LONG DESSERTS

Desserts need no season; they are popular any month! Whole Grain Oat Topping Mix tempts at any time of year when baked over fresh or frozen fruit for an old-fashioned style crisp topper. Our Bread Pudding Mix with Cinnamon adds an exclamation point to the meal with its delicious rich flavor. This kitchen-friendly mix can be used with any leftover whole grain bread products such as pancakes, rolls, and buns.

Whole Grain Oat Crisp Topping
Whole Grain Oat Crisp Topping over fresh berries

Now that your meal planning has a great start with Foothill Farms®…dig out your sunglasses, kick back and relax knowing next year’s menu is full of flavorful recipes. From August to June, we have you covered.

Lose the Sodium without Losing the Kids

Spaghetti, pizza, sloppy joes, chili, and tacos are known as “kid-tested, mom-approved” meals but when the ingredients have too much salt, they quickly turn into cafeteria no-gos! Flavorwise™ from Foothill Farms® was created to help reduce sodium on school menus without sacrificing taste. Each product has 310mg sodium or less per serving, 0g trans fat, is low fat or fat free and contains no cholesterol or added MSG.

Flavorwise™ by Foothill Farms® Reduced Sodium mixes
All Flavorwise products are sodium-conscious, lower in fat and cholesterol and don’t contain added MSG, so your customers can make smarter choices.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) are federally funded by the USDA each year to cover the cost of free and reduced meals, as well as some additional financial support for paid meals. The NSLP and SBP mandate the amount of sodium, calories, trans fat, and saturated fat allowed in school meals. For example, for the 2014/15 school year, food prepared for K-5 lunches can’t have more than 1230 mg of sodium, 550-650 calories, 0 g per serving of trans fat and less than 10% of calories from saturated fat.  Source: http://www.schoolnutrition.org/uploadedFiles/School_Nutrition/105_Meetings/CurrentandPastMeetings/CurrentMeetingPages/LegislativeActionConference/Presentations/1-Comparison%20of%20Current%20and%20New%20Regulatory%20Requirements%20under%20Final%20Rule.pdf?n=9218

Over the next eight years, school cafeterias and foodservice providers need to continue to reduce the amount of sodium in their meals. The USDA’s target sodium content allowed in school meals for 2022/23 is 640 mg of sodium. Source: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/legislation/sodium.pdf. To help put sodium levels in perspective, we found a helpful chart that coverts teaspoons to milligrams (tsp to mg).

1/4 teaspoon salt = 600 mg sodium
1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,200 mg sodium
3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,800 mg sodium
1 teaspoon salt = 2,400 mg sodium

Source: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Shaking-the-Salt-Habit_UCM_303241_Article.jsp

At the current target sodium rate, students are allowed about ½ teaspoon of salt in their lunch. By 2022, that allowance will be cut in half. Which means, the focus on reducing sodium is now! A gradual reduction of sodium is the best way to achieve student acceptance. The nutritional information for Flavorwise™ products will gradually change as the years go by, decreasing the sodium amounts so that they correspond with the federal nutritional guidelines outlined through 2022/23.

Our goal is to keep the kids eating school breakfast and lunch, rather than bringing their own from home. Therefore, taste is extremely important to us as well as waste. If the kids don’t like what they eat, they’ll pitch it! For more reasons than one, this isn’t acceptable! Currently, we have 29 products in our Flavorwise™ product line. Please click here for our newest brochure on Flavorwise™.