By Kelsey Casselbury 2017-11-22 21:54:30
When it comes to the focus of a K-12 school nutrition operation, it’s all about the kids—naturally. Employees aim to feed hungry students and make sure that they’re ready to learn. Once this primary mission is fulfilled, however, some cafeteria teams turn their attention to another customer segment: adults. Teachers, administrators and other school staff need to eat lunch, too. And while they’ll never be the primary target audience for school nutrition operators, you don’t want to be seen as willfully ignoring these potential customers. After all, some of the best PR messages can come from an enthusiastic teacher who knows firsthand that what you serve is top-notch—and says so at PTA meetings. All those regulations and requirements that USDA mandates for feeding students through the National School Lunch Program do not apply to these adults. Therefore, serving meals for adult customers offers up an opportunity to flex your culinary muscles, adjust portion sizes and, subsequently, charge a little bit more—all while demonstrating to some powerful school influencers, that you and your staff have the gastronomic skills to provide delicious food. Not everyone, however, agrees that creating and marketing menu offerings that are exclusive to school staff and adult guests is a worthy or even appropriate endeavor. Some argue that it doesn’t merit your time and attention, nor does it showcase the best of school nutrition. If you’re considering starting or expanding service of adult-only meals, assessing the pros and cons is an important step. You can start by checking out some of the practices and opinions of a variety of school nutrition professionals from around the country who connected with School Nutrition on this topic. SMALL-SCALE SERVICE Offering cafeteria meals for adults doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be creating a whole, separate menu line exclusive to them. In some schools and districts, serving this customer segment is simply a matter of modifying student menus. For example, Heather Frye, kitchen manager for McGraw and Weatherbee Elementary Schools, RSU 22, Hampden, Maine, says that her operation allows school staffers to enjoy the same salad bar as students, but offers the adults an additional protein option. “If tacos happen to be on the menu for that day, then [the adults] can have taco meat with their salad,” she states. To prep for that possibility, when making taco meat, she prepares extra and freezes 4-oz. portions for those days the teachers request it. Other districts offer a little bit more individualization, albeit on a small scale. In Texas, Cafeteria Manager Donnette Brown reports that, for 16 years, her team at Sparta Elementary, part of Belton Independent School District, offers salads to school employees, along with soup or a baked potato. However, as the week draws to a close, they offer a little something special: Comfort Food Thursdays. “That is the day we always have chicken nuggets, popcorn chicken or, the teacher favorite, steak fingers and mashed potatoes,” Brown says. When adult meal service first began at Sparta, teachers stopped by the cafeteria to place their meal orders in a spiral notebook earmarked for that purpose. Now Brown sends teachers and school staff an email of what’s being offered the next day, and staffers have until 8:30 the morning of to order a lunch via an email reply. This generally seems to be the standard practice at many other sites when it comes to serving adult meals, and it ensures that what’s made is all that’s needed, so there’s little food waste. Jennifer Jones, kitchen manager for Newmarket Elementary School, Newmarket (N.H.) School District, often serves soup to school staff. Rather than collect orders in advance and have them packaged and ready to go, she makes a large enough batch to accommodate real-time orders and she holds it hot in a tureen. “Some staff will email me with a particular time that they will be coming down to pick up their soup,” she says. “They have all been told which side of the cafeteria to enter on and that serving kids comes first for us. They are very patient.” For a long time, San Luis (Calif.) Coastal Unified School District Food Service Director Erin Primer made special, separate meals for adult customers, but took another approach in SY 2016-17. “I kept the ‘staff menu,’ but made all the items compliant with what can be served at our secondary schools,” she explains. “This helped us streamline the labor and use it to benefit students. Also, in the past we carried items that were only used for the staff menu and not for students, which is silly.” In fact, she’s taken this philosophy to the next step in this school year, eliminating the separate staff menu entirely. “Anything that we do should directly benefit students first—adults are just a bonus,” Primer notes. “We should focus our time, labor and products on creating such delicious things that the adults will want the same menu items that the kids get.” This is an opinion that quite a few school nutrition professionals hold—but more on that in a bit. RAMPING IT UP Then there are the operators who opt to go a little bit further in actively pursuing adult customers. Serving adult meals means “giving school staff the opportunity to interact with the nutrition team,” says Claudia Simion, café manager, Reagan Elementary, Brownsburg (Ind.) Community Schools. “The multiple choices that are offered have made this customer base grow. They are permanent customers now,” she details. As a result, the cafeteria team has seen improvement in both sales and customer satisfaction. Adult meals include salads, seasonal soups, baked potato and taco bars, as well as special holiday menus, such as turkey, green bean casserole and mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. Simion even goes one step further by creating special events for the faculty and staff, such as during August’s solar eclipse, when she made a Black Bean, Corn and Tomato “Galaxy Mix” and an “Eclipse Fruit Bowl,” with blueberries, blackberries and “sunny slices of peach.” On a daily basis, Simion serves 8 to 12 teachers and administrative personnel, but when she offers specials, adult participation triples and even quadruples! While many school nutrition operations serve just a handful of adults a day, Joy Peters, foodservice director, has more than 100 hungry teachers, admins and staffers lining up daily throughout her Pecos-Barstow-Toyah (Texas) Independent School District. The majority of these customers—anywhere between 30 and 80—order salads, she reports; the most popular is the Santa Fe Salad, which is similar to a taco salad. Peters says that adult meals have been the gateway for staff to regularly try—and find they enjoy—the student meals. “Plus, it’s much quicker to pick up a meal in one of our cafeterias than to try to go out and buy something at a fastfood restaurant,” she adds. LET’S TALK CASH MONEY A very informal survey of school nutrition professionals found that adult meals are priced anywhere between $0.25 and $1 more than student meals—and that’s plenty, for some districts, to add a little extra cash to their bottom line. Nevertheless, you want to be sure your adult pricing complies with USDA guidance on this subject. Yes, there is guidance on this topic—issued back in 1989 and, despite all the other regulatory changes of the last 30 years, this area has not been updated since. A few key points: » School food authorities (SFAs) must ensure (“to the extent practicable”) that money collected from federal reimbursements, payment for student meals and other nondesignated nonprofit foodservice revenues do not subsidize adult meals. » Although donated foods (aka USDA Foods) can be used for adult meals, the per-meal value of those donated foods must be taken into consideration when pricing the meals. » The price of adult meals must cover the cost of said meals entirely, including labor. » If, for some reason, there’s no data to accurately price the adult meal, the charge must be at least the amount of reimbursement received for a student’s free lunch. » Staff members who are directly involved in the school food operation can be given a free meal, if the SFA chooses. » It probably goes without saying, but meals served to adults cannot be claimed for reimbursement or counted toward the USDA Foods entitlement. BUT THINK TWICE Don’t think this revenue comes without a price, particularly of labor—and some say that price is just a little too high. JoAnne Robinette, SNS, a child nutrition consultant and former foodservice director, tells a story of taking a job at a district that had been operating at a loss, and yet they were offering not only adult meals but full serving lines in private areas for school staff. “I put an end to that in different ways,” Robinette recounts, as she realized she had to rein in labor costs to turn around the failing program. “First, we changed to self-serve in that private area, and then—after much food and little revenue—the exclusive serving lines were taken out and replaced by the invitation to come to the main cafeteria. We would let them cut to the front of the line, and we would have soup or salads for them.” While she expects there were teachers who most likely mourned the loss of their private cafeteria, Robinette says it just wasn’t worth the hours of labor that were going into the prep of such special items, available only for adults. “I could have a cook make meals for several hundred students in two hours, or I could have her make items for the adult line and maybe take in $12,” she explains. Of course, a private serving line just for adults is a pretty extreme example of adult meals. However, others echo similar concerns. “Staffing is always a challenge,” laments Joy Peters. “We live in an oil-rich area of Texas, so everyone pays a whole lot more [in salary] than we do. We constantly lose employees to the oil fields.” Because of this, she reveals, all the adult meals are prepared at a single site, with a warehouse employee delivering them to each campus along with other goods. Similar logistical headaches are among the reasons Erin Primer stopped serving adult meals. “We had our most senior employee—and highest-paid person—making these noncompliant staff meals,” she recounts. “I did not understand why we used the most senior and skilled person on the team to make non-student meals.” GOOD VIBES As SN readers know well, every school nutrition director and manager approaches their operation a little differently while still staying compliant with various regulations, including the service (or absence of service) of adult meals. But don’t overlook the great PR that can support the school nutrition department. “I have a great relationship with my school family, so it’s a blessing to do it for them,” says Donnette Brown. “My motto is, if the principal and staff are happy, then it’s a happy place to be.” In some districts, staff meals provide a little extra in both revenue and goodwill. SERVES 8 Grilled Chicken Blueberry Pecan Salad 2 lbs. Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless 1 tsp. Kosher salt 1⁄2 tsp. Black pepper 1⁄2 tsp. Garlic powder Dressing Ingredients 1⁄2 cup Honey 6 Tbsps. Mustard, whole-grain Dijon 1⁄4 cup Apple cider vinegar 1⁄4 cup Olive oil 2 cloves Garlic, minced 1 tsp. Kosher salt 1⁄4 tsp. Black pepper Salad Ingredients 12 cups Red leaf lettuce 3 cups Fresh blueberries 2 Gala apples, cored and sliced 1⁄2 cup Red onion, thinly sliced 1⁄2 cup Toasted pecans 1) Preheat a grill or grill pan for preparing the chicken. 2) Season the chicken breasts with 1 tsp. salt, plus 1⁄2 tsp. each of pepper and garlic powder. 3) Grill the chicken, turning once, until it is cooked through. Let it stand 10 minutes, slice and reserve for assembly. 4) To prepare the dressing: In a bowl, whisk the honey, Dijon mustard, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, 1 tsp. salt and 1⁄4 tsp. pepper until blended. Set aside until service. 5) To serve, divide the lettuce evenly (approximately 1 1⁄2 cups each) among eight serving containers and top the lettuce with equal amounts of chicken, fresh blueberries, apple slices, red onion slices and pecans. Serve each salad with approximately 1⁄2 cup of dressing. Recipe and Photo: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, www.blueberrycouncil.org SERVES 8 Taste of the Tropics Mango Wrap 2 Mangos, ripe, peeled, pitted and diced 2 cups Greek yogurt 1⁄2 tsp. Cumin 1 Tbsp. Water (as necessary) To taste Cayenne pepper 1 tsp. Garlic powder 1⁄2 tsp. Kosher salt 2 Tbsps. Lime juice 1⁄4 cup Olive oil 4 cups Chicken breast, cooked and sliced 2 cups Romaine lettuce, shredded 2 Tbsps. Cilantro, chopped 8 each Flour tortillas, 10-in. 1) To prepare the mango sauce: Combine the flesh of one mango, with all of the yogurt, cumin and cayenne pepper in a blender and blend together well. Add 1 Tbsp. water to thin the mixture, if necessary. Refrigerate until ready to use. 2) To prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, mix the garlic powder, salt, lime juice and olive oil. Set aside. 3) To prepare the mango chicken salad: In a large bowl, combine the chicken slices and shredded lettuce. Add the dressing. Fold in the cilantro, plus the flesh from the second mango. 4) To assemble, spread 1 Tbsp. of the mango sauce over one tortilla. Scoop 1⁄2 cup mango chicken salad and place in the center. Fold up both sides and roll up. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Portion remaining mango sauce for dipping. Serve immediately. Recipe and Photo: National Mango Board, www.mango.org SERVES 6 Ancient Grain Salad With Watermelon 6 Tbsps. Olive oil 1⁄2 cup Maple syrup 6 Tbsps. Lemon juice 4 tsps. Lemon zest To taste Kosher salt 6 cups Cooked whole grains, such as kamut, brown rice, quinoa or barley 1 cup Pecans, chopped 2⁄3 cup + 2 Tbsps. Green onions, sliced 2⁄3 cup Celery, thinly sliced 2 cups Corn kernels 4 cups Watermelon, diced 1) In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. 2) Add the grain of choice and chopped pecans. Mix thoroughly to combine. 3) To serve, place 1⁄3 cup of the grain mixture on the bottom of a bowl or container. Top it with 1⁄2 Tbsp. each of celery and green onions, 2 1⁄2 Tbsps. of corn and 1⁄3 cup diced watermelon. Repeat the layers once, starting with the grain, and then top with 1⁄3 cup of the grain and 1 tsp. green onions. Recipe and Photo: National Watermelon Promotion Board, www.watermelon.org SERVES 10 Chicken Apple Salad Sandwich 1 cup Mayonnaise 2 1⁄2 tsps. Honey or sugar 1 1⁄4 tsps. Garlic powder 1 1⁄2 Tbsps. Red wine vinegar 1⁄2 tsp. Black pepper, ground 2 lbs. Chicken breasts, cooked, sliced 1 3⁄4 cup Celery, chopped 3⁄4 cup Apples, chopped 1⁄4 cup Cranberries 5 cups Romaine lettuce, shredded 10 Ciabatta rolls* 1) In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, honey (or sugar), garlic powder, red wine vinegar and ground black pepper to make the dressing. 2) Fold in the cooked chicken, celery, apples and cranberries. Stir well. 3) Place 2⁄3 cup of chicken apple salad on the bottom half of each ciabatta roll. Add a 1⁄2 cup of shredded romaine lettuce and top with the other half of the ciabatta roll. 4) Serve chilled. *Note: Pillsbury Ciabatta Bread, thaw-and-serve, whole grain and pre-sliced, can be used in this recipe. Recipe: Boston Public Schools/Project Bread, www. projectbread.org; adapted by General Mills Convenience & Foodservice, www.generalmillscf.com Photo: General Mills Convenience & Foodservice, www.generalmillscf.com SERVES 8 Tuna and Bean Salad 12 ozs. Pasta shells (or other pasta shape), medium-sized 12 1⁄4 ozs. Tuna, chunk light, in water, drained 15 1⁄2 ozs. Kidney or pinto beans, rinsed and drained 1⁄2 Red onion, medium, chopped 1⁄4 cup Flat-leaf parsley, chopped 1⁄4 cup Black olives, chopped 2 Tbsps. Vegetable oil 1⁄4 cup Dijon mustard 2 Tbsps. Red wine vinegar 1⁄4 tsp. Ground black pepper 1⁄2 cup Asiago cheese, grated* To taste Salt 1) Prepare the pasta according to package directions. 2) While the pasta is cooking, combine the tuna, beans, onion, parsley and olives in a mixing bowl. 3) In a separate small bowl, whisk the oil, Dijon mustard, vinegar, pepper and salt. 4) When the pasta is cooked, drain it well and toss it with the tuna-and-beans mixture. Pour the vinaigrette over the pasta and toss well. 5) Add the grated cheese and toss gently. Refrigerate and serve cold. *Note: Consider an Asiago cheese from Wisconsin for this recipe. Recipe and Photo: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, www.wisconsincheesefoodservice.com SERVES 12 Spicy Tomato Soup 3 Tbsps. Olive oil 3 cups Sweet onion, minced 3 cups Celery, minced 50 ozs. Condensed tomato soup* 4 cups Vegetable broth, low-sodium 3 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce, low-sodium 2 Tbsps. Horseradish 1⁄4 cup Lemon juice 2 Tbsps. Lemon zest 3 Tbsps. Celery seed 1⁄4 tsp. Ground red pepper 1⁄4 cup Fresh parsley, minced 1) Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, or until they have softened. 2) Stir in the celery. Cook until the celery is tender, about 4 minutes. 3) To the pot, add the condensed tomato soup, vegetable broth, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, lemon zest, 1 Tbsp. celery seed and the ground red pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. 4) To serve, use a 6-oz. ladle to portion 3⁄4 cup of soup into a bowl. Garnish with a sprinkle of celery seed and parsley. Serve immediately. *Note: Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup can be used in this recipe. Recipe and Photo: Campbell’s Foodservice, www. campbellsfoodservice.com Recipes published in School Nutrition have not been tested by the magazine or SNA in a school foodservice setting, except for certain “Kitchen Wisdom” selections, which are evaluated by a volunteer pool of operators. When available, nutrient analyses are provided by the recipe source. Required ingredients, preparation steps and nutrient content make some recipes more appropriate for catering applications or adult meals. Readers are encouraged to test recipes and calculate their own nutrition analyses, meal patterns and HACCP steps. Kelsey Casselbury is a contributing editor and a former managing editor of School Nutrition. She lives in Odenton, Md., and can be reached at email@example.com.
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