Schools Spice Up Student Lunches with Restaurant-Quality International Dishes Designed to Boost Enrollment

Gage Cohen | July 14, 2017 | 1:34pm EDT
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Schools spice up lunch with restaurant-like fare.
(Photo: EZ Event Photography)

On Wednesday, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue attended the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) annual conference in Atlanta, promising to enable nutrition professionals to prepare meals for students that are more culturally-diverse, appealing and nutritious.

In an effort to combat students’ rebellion against the skimpy, tasteless lunches schools mandated by the Obama administration – which resulted in declining enrollment, wasted food, and tighter budgets – schools are now offering a wide range of more flavorful, international, restaurant-quality dishes.

“Students expect their school cafeterias to serve the diversity of flavors they are accustomed to in restaurants,” stated the SNA in a press release.

“Attendees will test recipes including Chicken Tikka Masala and Thai Style Fish Tacos, Spicy Korean BBQ strips and Southwest Chili con Carne.”

“The USDA and SNA are partners in working together because we all have the same goals in mind, and that’s the health and vitality of our young people,” Sec. Perdue said at the conference:

“My goal as Secretary of Agriculture is to remove the bookkeeping headaches and menu problems that are distracting our school nutrition professionals from doing their real job of feeding kids nutritious and appealing meals.”

SNA attendees walked through an exhibition with 408 different booths at which new foods and menu items were displayed. This year, there was an emphasis on providing a diverse variety of international dishes.

Nutritionists and parents like those who attended the conference in Atlanta have become increasingly concerned about school nutrition after participation in school lunch programs has consistently dropped in recent years.

Sec. Perdue has already rolled back some of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s restrictions and standards. Harsh backlash against the former first lady’s infamous school lunch restrictions made national headlines during the Obama administration as school children took to social media to post photos of their tiny, unappetizing school lunches, often with the hashtag “#ThanksMichelleObama.”

In a May press release entitled “Ag Secretary Perdue Moves to Make School Meals Great Again,” USDA announced its intention to “provide greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for school meal programs in order to make food choices both healthful and appealing to students.”

While at the conference, attended by over 7,000 people, the secretary met with school nutritionists from around the country. SNA’s new president, Dr. Lynn Harvey, agreed with Sec. Perdue’s assessment of the current situation and vision for the future.

“School nutrition professionals work every day to make school meals more nutritious and delicious for our students,” said Dr. Harvey. “We are honored that Secretary Perdue recognizes these ongoing efforts and the importance of school meal programs. We look forward to working with USDA to identify ways to build on this success in school dining areas.”

Below are examples of some of SNA’s new food options compared to those available under the previous administration’s guidelines.

Then: Student mocks "mystery mush."














Today: Students dine on Mandarin Orange Chicken. (Photo: EZ Event Photography)













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