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Reinventing the Elementary School Meal

In early 2013, Pomptonian Food Service was challenged by client Ridgewood (NJ) School District to develop a school meal program that would offer healthy, tasty and visually appealing menu options with fresh ingredients that nevertheless provided value to the community by covering its costs.

Ridgewood planned to leave the National School Lunch Program for the 2013-14 school year, which meant no more federal rebates for students qualifying for free/reduced price meals, or access to federal commodity foods. This had previously generated around $70,000 annually. Therefore, the new meal program had to be appealing enough to students and parents to generate sufficient participation to compensate for the loss of government rebates.

Pomptonian tested a number of menu ideas beginning in March 2013 and eventually pared down the list of offerings to a number of kid-friendly, mom-approved items that were rolled out beginning last September in Ridgewood’s elementary school sites. The menu options include chopped salads, sandwiches made with Boar’s Head products, cage-free/all-natural chicken items, antibiotic-free beef sliders, Asian salad bowls, homemade soups and smoothies, supplemented by monthly promotions such as sushi, homemade pasta days and Belgian waffle days. All meals include fresh fruits/vegetables and a choice of hormone-free milk or water. Locally sourced products are emphasized as much as possible.

The result was highly encouraging, with a more than 57% increase in sales at the elementary schools where the program was rolled out. When it was subsequently extended to middle schools, the sales increase was 14% over the previous year. Furthermore, the program generated strong positive response from both students and their parents.

TAGS: Menu Trends
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