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With its array of ready-to-go grab and go meals, Smart Snack compliant a la carte selections and healthy beverages, the K-12 adapted POD Market can serve both cash and free/reduced students.

Best Concepts: Aramark adapts its college c-store concept POD Market to a high school

Aramark’s adaptation of its POD Market c-store concept to meet the needs of high schoolers in the Chandler USD district while offering federally compliant meal choices has been named winner of the 2021 FM Best Concept Award in the Best Convenience Retailing category.

The Nutrition Services team at Chandler USD in Arizona considers its students to be sophisticated consumers with high expectations who deserve a “wow” experience, so in partnership with the district’s meal services provider Aramark, it rolled out a creative twist—POD Market for K-12.

Although the POD (Provisions On Demand) Market concept was an original Aramark micro-market design for the college/university market, Aramark managed to adapt it to a K-12 high school environment by designing substantially different programming. For one thing, the company and district wanted to ensure that all students could participate in the space, so it was imperative that most items were meal compatible.

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The beverage selection at the K-12 POD Markets includes Java City Coffee branded drinks.

This allowed students eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the USDA National School Lunch Program to access the venue as regularly as the cash students. In addition, the a la carte program at Chandler USD had to completely be redesigned to offer new Smart Snack compliant items to make the POD Market space new and exciting to the students.

The intent behind the initiative was to provide new experiences to students to enrich and nourish their lives beyond the traditional school cafeteria.

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POD (Provisions On Demand) Market offers a college style service platform that better accords with modern teen preferences as opposed to old-school cafeterias.

Upgrading its spaces and launching new programs has already provided Chandler USD’s meal program with 16% growth over the last three years and the POD Market concept is expected to continue adding to that as schools return to a more normal mode of operation after the past year’s COVID-impacted experience. Already at the two high schools in the district where the POD Markets were installed, positive results have been obtained with Chandler High School, which has an open campus environment, seeing a 12% participation increase off a $65,000 investment on the space and Casteel High a massive 33% increase on a $63,000 investment.

The offerings at the POD Markets are designed to appeal particularly to teens while offering a college style serving environment. Popular menu choices include fresh salads, sub sandwiches, wraps, fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits, bento boxes, fresh fruit cups, hot fan favorites, an elevated a la carte selection and assorted beverages including Java City branded coffee and tea drinks.

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