With statistics verifying the skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity; controversy raging over the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (see sidebar); and Michelle Obama championing the anti-obesity cause, upgrading the quality of school cafeteria food has become a national obsession. Not surprisingly, it is a top priority for foodservice providers, too—from full-service caterers, to entrepreneurial start-ups, to global corporations—serving campuses from elementary schools with low-income popula- tions to private universities with hefty tuitions.
Though the school budgets and student demographics may vary dramatically, the challenges facing food providers often are the same: among them, how to make healthier ingredients like whole grains and vegetables appealing to carb-crazy young people, how to cope with dietary restrictions and rising rates of veganism, and how to teach students to eat more healthfully even after school and throughout their lives.
In many places, allowing students to customize their meals is one answer. But the most consistent and far-reaching change is the move away from processed, frozen, and heat-and-serve food to fresh ingredients and freshly prepared dishes.