Students getting lunch at Barren County High School in Kentucky now have a number of choices. They can go through the hot line, one of the two main lines or, as of mid-August, a new grab-and-go option called Fresh Market 95210 that offers several meal component choices that combine to satisfy the federal requirements for a reimbursable meal. That’s important because about 57 percent of the high school’s 1,200 students qualify for free or reduced price lunches.
Since the debut of Fresh Market 95210 on Aug. 17, grab-and-go sales at Barren County High have been booming as students now find they have a convenient way to get a meal combination of their choice while still having time for other things during their 25-minute lunch period. Leaving school is not an option as the campus is closed.
A grab-and-go option had already existed on the cafeteria’s hot line before the debut of Fresh Market 95210, but it only offered prepacked combinations of items like burgers and pizza with sides like salads and fresh veggies.
Fresh Market 95210 offers choices. A student can take a sandwich or salad and then choose the appropriate additions to complete a qualifying school lunch.
“They now have options,” says CheyAnne Fant, director of nutrition services for Barren County Schools. “Do you want a Granny Smith apple or a Red Delicious? Or would you rather have an orange, or a salad or a wrap or sandwich? Before, we would put out a sandwich and pick your bag of chips and your vegetable or fruit for you.”
Currently, the choices include vegetarian and chef’s salads, ham or turkey wraps and sandwiches (the proteins are alternated on the sandwiches and wraps to provide variety) plus salsa, carrot sticks, various fresh fruits and vegetables and grain options like whole-wheat Goldfish and various chips and crackers.
About 13 percent of lunch sales in the first week of school—that is, prior to the debut of Fresh Market 95210—were grab-and-go meals from the hot line, or 222 meals in all. The number rose to 735 in the first 11 days after Fresh Market 95210 opened. The per-day sales figure more than doubled from 31 to 67.
But while student purchased grab-and-go lunches have soared, “the most surprising thing was the adult sales,” Fant says, “which I didn’t expect to increase quite as much as they did, but 25 percent of our adult sales are now from Fresh Market grab-and-go options.”
The idea for Fresh Market 95210 came from a culinary arts intern working with the district school meal program, who suggested offering grab-and-go lunches “like we’re going on a field trip,” Fant reports. The idea was floated on the district nutrition services department’s mobile app and feedback was extremely encouraging.
“We liked it because we were missing a lot of students for whom it’s the convenience factor more than anything,” Fant says. Feedback since school started has produced some changes, such as the addition of a vegetarian salad option aside from the chef’s salad.
The numbers in the station’s name, 95210, refer to daily goals in the district’s wellness policy: nine hours of sleep, five servings of fruits/veggies, two hours or less of screen time, one hour of physical activity and zero sugar-added beverages.
A modified version of the program that offers two grab-and-go options each day is also being piloted in the district elementary schools, Fant says. “We’re trying to compete with the lunchboxes being brought into the schools.”
The elementary options include combos like the Fiesta Pack with cheese sticks, salsa, baked chips and a fruit component, plus milk/juice. The Picnic Pack includes a sandwich, chips and carrots. There is also an “Anytimer” selection packaged to resemble the commercial Lunchables product sold at retail.
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]