2023 K-12 School Top Dining Trends

by | Jan 12, 2023 | News Releases

Metz Culinary Management, Inc. (Metz) has released its list of top dining trends their experts anticipate for K-12 schools across the country. The three top  culinary trends, which will help K-12 culinary organizations, include: (1) combating growing childhood obesity; (2) addressing rising food costs; and (3) expanding nutritional education for their students. The Metz experience has shown that having strategies and effective culinary programs for addressing those challenges better supports classroom and athletic performance while instilling lifelong healthy habits in their students. Here is more detail on each of the three trends:

Childhood obesity continues to rise in the U.S., as reported by CNN.1 Children are becoming obese younger than ever before, and obesity is a major underlying risk factor for many illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and severe cases of COVID-19 according to the Mayo Clinic.2

School breakfast and lunch programs can interrupt this cycle by serving healthy meals with options that students enjoy. Metz recommends:

  • Designing healthier meal options that are plant-forward
  • Reducing reliance on prepared, packaged options that are often heavy in saturated fat and sugar
  • Creating plant-based options such as pasta dishes made with spiral zucchini rather than traditional pasta for healthier options
  • Making healthy eating a fun experience with dining and tasting events that feature nutritious foods that students may not have tried before

Costs are rising across the supply chain, and inflation has driven food prices up considerably, hampering school dining programs.

“The federal government has ended funding of free school breakfasts and lunches for all students that have been in place for the past two years,” said Maureen Metz, Executive Vice President for Metz. “Without federal subsidies to fund school meal programs, many schools will be dealing with higher costs and even food insecurity meal access issues.”

To help manage expenditures related to K-12 food services, Metz recommends:

  • Lowering transportation costs of ingredients by partnering with locally sourced food growers and suppliers
  • Reducing waste by shifting to reusable plates, cups and utensils
  • Creating posters that show the value of the school lunch to deliver healthy meals that are convenient and cost-effective for parents and students, while also tapping into any school digital/app capabilities as a meaningful communications channel to reach students
  • Considering outsourcing to a private foodservice management company that specializes in a comprehensive turnkey capability, but make sure the company is committed to delivering high nutritional quality

Instilling good nutritional habits in children is an important part of their education and helps them develop important lifelong eating habits that lead to better overall health.

“At Metz, we are anticipating an expansion of nutrition education programs that help children learn about the benefits of choosing healthier meals to benefit their lifelong physical and mental wellbeing,” said Adam Carlson, Metz’s K-12 Division Chef.

Metz recommends that K-12 educational organizations:

  • Create classroom nutrition education programs that are fun and focus on the importance of balanced meals based on U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate recommendations
  • Emphasize food as fuel for energy and better performance
  • Start a school garden and teach kids about growing, selecting, and preparing healthy food

By targeting these top three trends, K-12 school dining programs can have a significant impact on students and their health, positively impacting their physical and emotional development, and their ability to focus and learn.