After nearly two years when they spent much more time at home than ever before since they began their school years, kids have gotten used to having more meals outside what is served by school kitchens. That has posed a challenge for school meal programs, which must adapt as much as possible to the tastes of their young customers while staying within the bounds of school meal regulations, maintaining fiscal integrity and, most recently, dealing with staffing and supply chain issues.
So, what are kids preferring to eat these days that school meal programs can serve? Recently, management company Chartwells K12, a major player in the school meal market that operates at some 4,500 schools across the country, unveiled the top 10 food trends for kids and their families in 2022 as compiled by its culinary experts and registered dietitians. From all-day breakfast to cultural dishes and culinary comebacks, these trends continue to represent kids’ favorite foods now and in the future.
“Every day, our team serves millions of kids in thousands of schools across the country,” notes Chartwells K12 CEO Belinda Oakley. “Because of this, we have incredible insights on what kids like to eat. Not only does it help us shape school menus, but it encourages even more students to eat in the cafeteria, which recent research confirms is the healthiest place Americans are eating.”
This is the second annual list Chartwells K12 has compiled based on its experience and expertise regarding what kids like to eat. The result is a collection of fun, delicious and flavorful creations that are also healthy. That’s especially important now because of the impact of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions on children’s health due to excessive weight gain while restricted to remote learning, keeping them from schools, which a recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association termed “the single healthiest place Americans are eating,”
“Knowing that many of our students get the best meal of their day at school, our entire goal is to make sure they leave the cafeteria happier and healthier than they came in by creating foods and experiences they love,” said Chef Peter Gilhooly, Chartwells K12’s vice president of culinary. “This list was curated by our own research, along with input from students, and we’re excited to share what they’ll be eating next year.”
Here is Chartwells K12’s top 10 food trends for kids for 2022…