Posts Tagged ‘school lunches’

Mushrooms Make School Lunches Delicious

As summer comes to a close and we begin swapping bathing suits and flip-flops for backpacks and pencils, school lunches become top-of-mind. What will your little ones (and big ones) be eating for lunch every day? Council Representative, Kathleen Preis, walks us through all the delicious meat and mushroom blend dishes your kids will be enjoying this school year!

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What do Chicken & Mushroom Gravy, Spaghetti & Meatballs with Mushrooms, and Mushroom & Olive Tapenade all have in common? No, they are not the bestselling menu items at a restaurant up the street. They are not dishes that wowed the judges on a national cooking show. In fact, they are menu items that could be served in your kid’s lunchroom this school year!

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School Foodservice Directors across the nation are embracing fresh mushrooms and blending them into lunch menus in hundreds of districts across the United States. Hickman Mills School District in Missouri added a Mushroom Taco Salad and Mushroom Spaghetti to their menu and the response from the students was overwhelming! 90% of students surveyed enjoyed the Mushroom Taco Salad and requested it be served again! In New Orleans Public Schools, School Nutrition Director Rosie Jackson added Vegetarian Lasagna and Mushroom & Olive Tapenade to the menu during Mushroom Week. 80% of students at the secondary level preferred the mushroom blended entrees!

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The secret to all these delicious tasting and highly requested lunch items is… mushrooms! Blending finely chopped mushrooms in popular ground-meat favorites like burgers, meatballs, tacos, and meatloaf helps to create healthier menu items for school lunch programs. Two years ago Jessica Shelly at Cincinnati Public Schools switched her 100% beef burger to a beef & mushroom blend burger and was delighted by the results. “By switching to the beef burger with mushrooms, my calories and fat went down enough that I could add cheese to the elementary school burgers and offer turkey bacon to high school burgers – when they saw turkey bacon cheese burger as an option my high schoolers went nuts! They loved it!”

Adding mushrooms into classic ground meat dishes not only makes them healthier, it keeps them tasting “familiar” so students are more likely to continue gobbling up their burgers, meatloaf, and tacos without knowing they are better for them! So when your kids come home and tell you how they tried mushrooms at lunch time, don’t be surprised… heck you could even give blending a try it at home!

Mushrooms Make Back to School Time Trendy

Summer is quickly coming to an end and “back to school” time is in full swing. While the kids might be thinking about the latest trends in clothing and back to school gear, you might be thinking about what they’ll be eating for lunch. Council Representative, Kathleen Preis, tells us how the simple mushroom is making lunch menus across the country not only tasty this school year, but trendy.

Spicy Meatballs. Philly Cheese “Steak” Sandwiches. Chili con Carne. Sounds like the menu at a gourmet restaurant, while in reality this is what your kids could be dining on this school year. That’s right; all these trendy foods have made their way to school lunch trays across the nation, all because of mushrooms.

School Foodservice Directors everywhere have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the new blending concept – blending finely chopped mushrooms with ground meat – and have created healthier and trendier menu items for their school lunch programs.  “Mushrooms are on trend – the coolest thing to eat… We need to be on trend, we need to be serving those foods and meals that have a trendy buzz about them,” says Dayle Hayes, MS, RD, an award-winning child nutrition expert. And those buzz worthy, trendy menu items will have kids gobbling up their serving of vegetables!

So when your kids come home from school this year saying how much they loved that turkey burger with cheese and bacon, don’t fret; thanks to The Blend you can be sure they ate their veggies as well!

The Blend Recognized as a Way to Transform School Lunches

Earlier this month the Mushroom Council was invited to serve mushroom blended products at the Vendor Showcase Lunch at School Food Focus. Council Representative, Kathleen Preis, was there to demonstrate how The Blend can transform school lunches.

The Mushroom Council could not have been more honored and grateful for the invitation to serve The Blend at School Food FOCUS at the beginning of the month. Being surrounded by other vendors who are working towards transforming food systems to support students’ academic achievement and lifelong health, while directly benefiting farmers, regional economies, and the environment was incredibly inspiring.

The Mushroom Council Booth
At our booth we sampled a delicious blended Shroom’n Turkey Meatloaf. Foodservice directors eagerly waited for samples; all the while noting how moist and flavorful the meatloaf was – attributing all these wonderful properties to The Blend. It’s amazing how mushrooms can instantly improve any dish they are paired with; that it’s no wonder why mushrooms have become a go-to ingredient for school foodservice directors.

Touring Oakland Unified School District
On the first day at School Food FOCUS we had the amazing opportunity to visit two schools in the Oakland Unified School District. Hosted by Jennifer LeBarre, the school foodservice director for OUSD, we visited the site of the central kitchen being planned for 2016, and learned the strategies being implemented to transform school food in the district. Hearing how dedicating city funds directly to the school foodservice program, and how quickly this massive project is not only being accomplished but supported, was inspirational.

After our central kitchen tour, we traveled to an East Oakland campus to eat lunch and experience “California Thursdays,” a collaborative project between Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and the Center for Ecoliteracy, which showcases dishes made from fresh, California-grown ingredients as part of the California Food for California Kids™ initiative.

School Food Focus Lunch

Hearing the elementary schools’ favorite meal from the “California Thursday” program was a tofu and noodle dish made me certain students would absolutely devour our mushroom recipes. Capping off the tour, we visited OUSD’s school produce market and a truly spectacular school garden.

School Food Focus Garden Tour

If there is anything we can learn for Jennifer and her talented team it’s that slowly introducing scratch cooking dishes to her students and staff can ease the acclimation process and increase acceptance.

Thank you to all the foodservice directors at School Food FOCUS who now recognize mushroom blendability as a realistic technique to transform school lunch at a large district level.


School Food FOCUS, is an collaborative effort funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and a growing number of sponsors, individuals, and private funders,  to make school meals nationwide more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced. FOCUS aims to transform food systems to support students’ academic achievement and lifelong health, while directly benefiting farmers, regional economies, and the environment.