School nutrition directors and school lunch staff recently had an opportunity to taste some of the newest products being offered to school systems at two USDA Food Commodity shows hosted by the NCDA&CS Food Distribution Division. More than 50 food companies were represented at shows in Raleigh and Hickory. These businesses take USDA commodities earmarked for schools and contracts with school systems to process the commodities into products schools can serve in the cafeteria. For example, Brookwood Farms, a Siler-City based company, takes pork shoulders and processes them into chopped, heat-and-eat barbecue.
It was readily apparent that food service companies are getting pretty creative in trying to help schools meet new nutritional requirements, which includes adding more orange vegetables to the menu and reducing sodium content.
A few of the offerings included in the mix of new items was a pizza with sweet potato in the crust, sweet potato French toast, lower-sodium barbecue and dark-meat turkey burgers.
About 100 child nutrition workers attended the show in Raleigh.
“There is a lot of focus on child nutrition on many fronts,” said Gary Gay, director of the Food Distribution Division. “Food companies that work with school lunch programs are looking for ways to help provide more nutritious options in the schools, and these shows give child nutrition workers an opportunity to taste these products, gather additional nutritional information and offer feedback.”