Get Crafty – The Advantages Of Creative Cafeterias 

If there’s ever been a year for changing up school menus, 2021 is it. Schools are juggling shortages, substitutions, and safety. Of course, leave it to school nutrition professionals to turn lemons into lemon bars, lemon chicken bakes, lemon zested fish, lemony roasted potatoes… You get the point – you have been inventive with your menus! Creativity continues to outshine challenges at every school meal. It’s been no small feat, but it’s been worth it. Not only because it’s fulfilling to nourish hundreds of thousands of children, but because there are some actual benefits to originality in school meals. Out of all the things we’ve had to try this year, perhaps creativity is something we can keep on the menu. 

  • Compelling for Students

    Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a lunch line and heard, “That, again?” I know we’ve at least thought it. While you shouldn’t give up your trusty rotating menus, it doesn’t hurt to add something new and imaginative to the mix. You might be surprised how open students are to trying different cuisines, flavors, or twists on classics. It’s not always easy to think on your feet, but your creativity has likely kept students curious and interested in school lunch. Not to mention, many children now have more access to global flavors, plant-based meals, and customizable options outside of school, or can at least see the influence of it thanks to YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, and so on. The exposure may raise their consciousness when making decisions for all their meals, even at school. It’s not necessarily about crafting new recipes (although we know you’re pros at that!). It can be as simple as playing with the presentation. Inspired meals don’t have to be intimidating. As long as you don’t get rid of the tater tots, we’re sure any changes will be well received. 

  • Fun for Employees

    Under normal circumstances, putting on your chef-shaped thinking-hat can be the right amount of challenging. Even now, under immense pressure, we’ve seen cafeteria staff whip up a bit of culinary magic. Only these magicians have been proud to share their secrets! Community members of School Meals That Rock, a social place to share what people love about school nutrition in America, are sharing their ingenuity and artistry daily. It looks like they’re having fun doing it and sharing that joy with their students. The platform stimulates your brain and community at the same time. You can do so many things to update your menu and even more ways to get your school involved in making those decisions. For example, maybe you could do a contest in your kitchen to come up with the most creative meal. Staff could taste different items and give their input, or students could do polls about what they’d like to see or try. At least in terms of inspiration and entertainment, the sky’s the limit! 

  • Healthy for Everyone

    Having a variety of foods is healthy, and not only in a USDA-compliant way. While variety in a diet can better everyone’s nutrition through the natural benefits of food (more nutrients, improved digestion, etc), it also nourishes the mind. The discovery of diverse foods and ways of eating can shift paradigms about different cultures and help people to be more mindful about their eating habits. The exposure gives them a little more knowledge about themselves, and therefore more agency. Schools setting an example of serving unique or fun dishes helps students to adopt a ‘yes’ mindset and keeps them from missing out on delicious opportunities. Varied and resourceful meals broaden horizons and set everyone up for a more adventurous, appreciative, life. 

You have continued to turn crises into chances. It has been uplifting to watch, and we bet it has been tasty to eat. If you decide to keep on experimenting, just know you and your great teams continue to have our full support in making your lunchroom a place where students want to be.