Breakfast All Day, Here to Stay
Jag_cz / iStock / Getty Images Plus
As days continue to bring hectic schedules and early starts, breakfast, brunch and “brinner” keep trending for kids. Traditional favorites like a breakfast burrito and a sausage, egg & cheese biscuit are just as likely to be seen on menus as creative offerings from Chartwells K12’s Rush Hour all-day breakfast concept such as a Spicy Chicken & Tater Tot Breakfast Biscuit Sandwich, Breakfast Fried Rice or Ham or a Mozzarella and Spinach Whole Grain Breakfast Popover. Also rising in popularity this year is the smoothie for its great-tasting combination of fruits and yogurt that can be eaten on the go.
No Fork, No Problem
mediaphotos / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Breakfast isn’t the only meal kids are eating on the go these days as handheld items make for an easy option at lunch, as well as between school, sports and fun with friends. Bento boxes filled with meats, cheese, veggies and hummus top the list of favorites, along with creative wraps like a Vegetarian Rainbow Hummus Wrap, walking tacos and Chicken Fajita Shawarma that make finger food popular for all ages.
Power Your Performance
TerryJ / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Whether it’s competing on an athletic team, staying active with friends or looking to improve overall wellness, Gen Z continues to prioritize healthy, nutritious meals that help them establish a mind-body connection and “eat to compete.” Kids are focused on staying fueled and hydrated by eating meals like Fajita Chicken & Rice Bowls and Hummus Dip with Veggies & Flatbread to power through their days.
Tim Macpherson / Stone / Getty Images
Moving beyond #MeatlessMondays, vegetables and plant-based foods are taking center stage as kids place a high priority on both personal health and the health of the planet. For these goals, protein replacements and vegetarian options are the stars of the meal, with veggie burgers more popular in schools than ever before along with creative vegetarian and flexitarian twists like a Watermelon Edamame Poke, Kung Pao Tofu Stir Fry and a Vegetarian Sweet Potato and White Bean Chili.
Grown on Your Own
With special events and cafeteria menus celebrating fresh produce coming from local farms all year long, kids are developing a lifelong connection with their fruits and vegetables, along with a desire to know where they came from. In the past year, the number of kids and families growing their own produce and herbs in their backyard has increased, but through hydroponics and other modern technology, gardens are also sprouting indoors at schools across the country. An indoor, hydroponic garden like Farmshelf enables students to grow their own produce at school and brings the latest innovations and the freshest flavors to the cafeteria.
Kevin Dodge / The Image Bank / Getty Images
Eating meals at school is often the first place a child will get to taste and learn about foods from outside their family’s recipes or traditional cultural dishes. The power of food in connecting people with each other and with different heritages is more prevalent than ever as kids seek new ethnic flavors from around the world and look for foods that represent their own traditions to create deeper bonds and share more of themselves with classmates and friends. From Curry Masala Roasted Chicken Wings from Chartwells’ Chaat House concept to a Middle Eastern Breakfast Scramble with Potatoes, Caramelized Onions, Spiced Tomatoes and Scrambled Eggs, students are finding school lunch menus represent a world of flavors.
Will & Deni McIntyre / Getty Images
As students returned to school this fall, kids also returned to cafeterias to enjoy meals together once again. Thanks to flexibilities provided by the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, students can enjoy meals at no cost throughout the 2021-22 school year. Dining together at school presents the perfect opportunity for students to enjoy their favorite meals together and get inspired to try new foods.
Let’s Go Retro
Scrunchies, fanny packs and tie-dye aren't the only things making a comeback. Look for healthy twists on kid favorites from the 70s, 80s, and 90s as grilled cheese gets a gourmet glow-up into an Eggplant, Zucchini, Tomato & Provolone Panini while cheese and crackers morph into On-the-Go Protein Packs and the sloppy joe is elevated to a Sloppy Joe Pie with Mashed Sweet Potatoes or into other sandwiches like the Pulled Pork Ham and Swiss Cubano (pictured) and Sonoran Chicken Torta, both recently named to FM’s Best Sandwiches list.
Oodles of Noodles
Jonathan Knowles / Stone / Getty Images
Whether a cozy meal at home or a night out to eat, noodles in any form top the list of menu picks and have long been a culinary favorite for children and adults alike. By adding a variety of vegetables, discovering new ethnic flavors and customizing their ideal combinations, kids are embracing elevated comfort food options beyond just plain noodles. Favorites include Korean Bulgogi Chicken & Soba Noodle Bowl and Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese from Chartwells’ new Revolution Noodle and Mac & Cheesyology concepts.
Build Your Own
Not only are students helping to shape menus and reimagine their school dining experience through programs like Chartwells’ Student Choice, but customization is king as kids create their favorite combinations with build your own concepts in cafeterias across the country ranging from noodle bowl and burger bars to deli sandwiches, pizza and Mexican favorites.