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Raising the Bar on School Meal Programs

Marcus Dumke -

Debates on school lunch programs have been ongoing for years and more often than not, lunches get a bad rap. Too much heavily processed foods with high amounts of fat and sodium. Not enough whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Canned and frozen foods that lack flavor and appeal.

Why is serving healthy school lunch important? Nearly 1 in 5 school-aged children today suffers from obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consequences range from diabetes and high blood pressure to low self-esteem and depression. All of these issues can lead to poor performance in school.

Healthy Students are Better Learners

There’s been a push in recent years for healthier, fresher and more delicious cafeteria food along with an increased focus overall on student wellness. Foodservice directors are taking advantage of federal grants to improve school nutrition, and schools are finding creative ways to enhance meals such as partnering with local farms and food producers and having a school garden or greenhouse.

One result of the initiatives is an increase in “healthy choice bars.” These augmented salad bars might include seasonal local berries, yogurt and healthy toppings, spices and popular condiments like Sriracha, interesting grains such as Bulgur wheat and quinoa, and lots of fresh produce that kids might add to tacos, pizza, burgers and other entrees from the hot-lunch line. These high-quality, fresh, interesting selections are perceived as a treat, driving more traffic to the healthy choice bar.

As more and schools, corporations and institutions add salad bars to their cafeterias, we’ve created equipment that makes the option easier, safer, healthier and more efficient. If your foodservice operation is considering adding or upgrading its salad bar, here are some of the essential tools we recommend:

  1. Manual Food Processors help you quickly and efficiently prep fruits and vegetables, which makes it easier to add fresh, local items to the menu without adding prep time and labor expenses.
  2. Vacuum Pack Machines allow you to seal fresh ingredients safely and extend their shelf life. This means you can offer healthy ingredients even when they’re not in season, and can purchase a large order of fresh fruits and vegetables without worrying about waste due to spoilage.
  3. Forced Air Cold Drop-Ins are best for keeping cold food at an ideal temperature for freshness, crispness and beauty. And the better the foods look and taste, the more likely kids will eat them every day.
  4. Combination Hot/Cold Drop-Ins offer flexibility because fresh ingredients aren’t always served cold. Having hot and cold options lets you make the most of fresh ingredients and expands your menu offerings. It provides variety—the key to luring students to the healthier options each day.
  5. Portion Control Utensils provide desired serving sizes to help ensure students receive the nutrients they need. Color-coded handles take the guesswork out of portioning and an added benefit is all-natural antimicrobial handles for cleanliness and safety.

Better Food Builds Better Lives

Healthy school meal programs definitely pay off. Not only do students learn and adopt better eating habits, but nutritious eating is shown to enhance student achievement , elevate grades and standardized test scores, reduce absences and improve memory. And if the lunches are more appealing, more students will sign up for them. The resulting increase in funds enables you to add even more improvements to your school’s meal program.

From prep work to serving to display, discover a complete selection of innovative solutions for commercial salad bars. Work with our professional team at Vollrath to enhance your fresh food presentation.

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