It goes without saying that the better the meal, the more people will opt to buy that meal. This is a central aspect to increasing student participation in Florida school cafeterias, from Miami to the Panhandle. But what is a better meal, and how are school lunch menus an important part of this equation?
For starters, it comes down to taste. The bottom line is kids will almost always make school lunch decisions on taste, and that means it's up to the school nutrition directors to try to deliver the healthy aspect in conjunction with the tasty part.
Here are a few things Florida school cafeterias can consider without compromising on quality or flavor:
CONSIDER SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHICS.
School cafeteria menus can become more appealing by changing up what's included on their menus. Demographics play a key role.
In Florida, as more and more families move from different areas of the Latin world and the Caribbean, school menus that reflect those changes can become more successful. If students see options that are more familiar to them, there's a greater chance those students will be more likely to participate in school lunch.
MAKE FOOD FUN.
Lunch can be the most enjoyable part of the school day for students. It's a time to eat, to talk with friends, and hopefully, a time to have a little fun. If school lunch menus are fun, too, it can only help to increase participation levels.
Consider fun and flavorful ingredient choices when they're available, and the more schools can provide the illusion that students are eating in a restaurant or foodcourt, the more excited they'll be to buy school lunch. This means menu items should be highlighted in the overall design of the cafeteria with areas dedicated to menu options such as burger bars and taco stands.
MAKE FOOD TASTY.
Flavor, flavor, flavor. There's really no way around it. There are certain foods that just taste good -- French fries, pizza, cheeseburgers. The trick then becomes, how can school cafeterias continue to serve these types of items while figuring out innovative ways to make them healthier.
The answer, in many cases, leads to the cooking process and the equipment used to cook those menu items. Instead of dropping fries into the fryer, consider a convection or combi oven. Instead of bleached pizza dough, consider whole wheat varieties. From the ingredients to the equipment used to cook them, innovation can help school nutrition programs increase student participation.