Getting kids to eat their vegetables has been an adult challenge since time immemorial. For school nutrition programs, which are obligated by federal regulations to serve fruits and vegetables, the challenge starts with getting kids to just try the different items.
That was a challenge taken up by Lintons Food Service Management, a Pennsylvania-based FM Top 50 contract firm that does about half its business in the K-12 market.
Enter Harvest of the Month, a promo program that highlights a different produce item each month by making it the “star of the show” during lunchtime, says Bryan Schmidt, director of culinary development for the company.
“We did it to expose children who participate in the National School Lunch Program to different types of vegetables and fruits that they may not be exposed to on a regular basis,” he says. “We want them to develop healthy eating habits and also to use produce that is farmed in their locality.”
Harvest of the Month was rolled out in nearly all the schools where Lintons operates. The products to be highlighted were based on factors like accessibility, product quality and anticipated appeal to youngsters.
“We essentially created a theme meal around the particular item,” Schmidt explains, “and we wanted to make it the star of the meal rather than maybe just having it fall by the wayside.”
After launching the program at the beginning of last year as a once-a-month event, the Lintons culinary committee of district managers, directors and culinarians got together to examine the results and decided to make some changes for this coming school year. One is to expand the number of meals with the featured item.
“If it’s Harvest of the Month, then it should really be more than just one meal, so what we’re working on for next school year is that we’ll be highlighting all the different ways that the month’s fruit or vegetable can be used,” Schmidt says.
He cites broccoli as an example, which might be served fresh roasted one day, then maybe as broccoli alfredo another day and then broccoli stir fry later on.
Here are some of the dishes Lintons offered this past year…