The holidays are over and the New Year is here! Let’s kick off 2017 by taking a look at 5 food trends nationwide that might just find a place in your school nutrition program.

Bigger, Badder Breakfast

Restaurants across the country are now offering all-day long breakfast options. Breakfast for breakfast, lunch and dinner no longer sounds as strange as it once did. Brunch is officially back and badder than ever. This is perfect timing for the increased demand for breakfast served in school nutrition departments. Many districts have enacted programs like breakfast after the bell and breakfast in the classroom to combat some of the side effects of early class times. If you’re super serious about beefing up the breakfast beast, be sure to check out PEP Talks – Episode 021- All About Breakfast to uncover how one district director revamped his program to achieve more than 60% breakfast participation.

Legumes, Ancient Grains and New Noodles

As the world continues getting smaller, we have become familiar with seeing more and more exotic foods finding their way to our pantries. For those of us accustomed to bleached flours, grains and pastas we may still be adapting to many of the healthier options that have begun springing up such as whole wheat and quinoa-based products. This trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down as ancient grains such as farro, teff and freekah rising through the ranks in the carb category. Also, expect new noodles to start sprouting up as prepackaged varieties of lentil and quinoa pastas make a harder hit in the market.

Misfit Fruits and Veggies

The future of vegetables appears to be ugly. Food producers, distributers, retailers and consumers nationwide are embracing the idea of not letting food go to waste, maintaining sustainable environmental stewardship and ultimately opening their hearts and homes to traditionally “ugly” fruits and vegetables that, in the past, would’ve been destined for the dumpster. As part of Farm to School initiatives, many districts are also adopting programs such as Farm Fresh Seconds to further cut costs, curb waste and engage students in the cafeteria.

Plant-based Protein Galore

Meat alternatives have taken the nation, and slowly but surely, the school nutrition world by storm. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the typical soy-based products that have been around now for quite a while. However, be sure to keep your eyes open for even more exciting plant-based proteins in 2017 such as vegan cheese, eggs, and mock meats. You may have already seen them popping up more and more on your grocery shelves. Many foodies are predicting 2017 to be the year of jackfruit which, when cooked, develops a texture like that of pulled pork.

Rise of Street Foods

Back in the day – which was a Wednesday by the way – most would’ve been absolutely abhorred at the idea of consuming street food. The notion of consuming Tijuana-style street tacos took some time be begin seeing acceptance by mainstream culture as people became more comfortable consuming curbside cuisine served from the side of an old delivery truck. Now food truck culture has gone mainstream and has even fostered a huge subculture in many large American cities. We’ve seen the trend already trickle down into school nutrition and don’t expect to see it let up anytime this year. Check out the Munchie Machine or CHOW Bus to see how foodservice directors have successfully incorporated food trucks into their programs.