Cafeterias Get Creative with Whole Grains: Schools explore fun, innovative ways to meet healthy new meal standards


School foodservice professionals are studying hard to develop fun, creative school meals that contain more whole grains, says the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) 2012 Back to School Trends Report.

 According to SNA’s survey, all respondents reported serving whole-grain rich items in their school cafeterias. Whole-grain breads, rolls, and buns are a universal favorite, while over 80% of districts offer whole-grain pastas, rice and cereals. Seventy eight percent report serving whole-grain tortillas, pitas or flatbreads.

 Increasing the amount of whole grains offered in school lunches is part of a larger initiative schools must undertake in order to comply with new nutrition standards. These new standards require schools to offer more variety and larger portions of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. School meals also must reduce sodium content, calories, and saturated and trans fat.

 Putting a healthy spin on traditional kid favorites is another way schools are working to meet the new standards. More than 40 percent of responding school districts report that pizza is the most popular lunch entrée served. To accommodate this preference, schools serve pizza with a whole-grain crust. Other crowd-pleasing meals are modified to reduce sodium, fat, and sugar content.

 To encourage students to try new menu items, many schools offer samples and taste testing. Other districts involve students in the menu selection process, allowing them to taste and provide feedback on potential new foods.

 SNA’s report was comprised of survey responses from 579 school districts nationwide. Click here to read the full report.