School nutrition directors face a range of challenges that make successful foodservice delivery difficult.
Despite all the issue, though, it's still possible to deliver healthy, tasty, and timely meals to the K-12 populations across California and Nevada. From innovative ideas like starting a school garden to finding solutions that will increase student participation, school lunch doesn't have to be as challenging as it's been in the past.
Consider the following K-12 school cafeteria foodservice statistics:
* 4.9 billion school lunches are served every year in the United States
* Schools across the country receive 13.6 billion dollars in federal funding to support these programs
* The national averages for school lunch costs are $2.34 for elementary schools, $2.54 for middle schools, and $2.60 for high schools
* According to the School Lunch and Breakfast Cost Study, costs comprise of food (37 percent), labor and benefits (48 percent), supplies (five percent), and other costs and shared expenses such as utilities and custodial services (10 percent)
Now let's consider the top three K-12 school nutrition foodservice challenges, as well as a few possible solutions.
RISING STUDENT EXPECTATIONS
For several reasons, our youth today like more than just mac and cheese. While the dish is certainly still a hit, students have more sophisticated palates today, and as we become more multicultural, many ethnic dishes are finding their ways on to K-12 menus, as well.
The bottom line is successful school nutrition programs need to consider expanded menu options in order to maintain or increase participation levels. And food must also be prepared with better ingredients and at higher quality levels for today's discerning palates.
SOLUTIONS: Cook and hold ovens produce gentle yet precise heat to evenly cook foods, holding it to retain higher moisture levels and increased holding life. Smoker ovens are also an easy way to add more complex flavors to what might be standard dishes. And finally, combi ovens allow schools to produce a wide range of dishes using many different cooking methods with a single unit.
NOT ENOUGH TIME FOR LUNCH
When a school has to move 2,000 students through a lunchroom over the course of three hours, that usually translates to students having shortened lunch periods. This means cafeteria staff needs to adjust their menus and cooking methods in order to accommodate time restraints.
SOLUTIONS: Combi ovens can help reduce the demands on labor and resources that often result in rushed meal preparation. A combi oven using Alto-Shaam's Halo Heat® technology will allow for advanced production with sustainable results. A Vector Multi-Cook Oven will also provide more cooking options in less space, which can also help increase service times.
Whether it's nutrition regulations or regulations stemming from food safety issues, school cafeterias are often subject to changes rules. Schools must keep food in safe serving and storage conditions, and they must also record and report HACCP data to prove they're keeping food safe.
SOLUTIONS: Alto-Shaam's Cook & Hold ovens, CT PROformance combi ovens, and Quickchiller blast chillers makes compliance fast and easy – a simple touch of a button and the data is downloaded to a USB drive.