Independent and multi-unit restaurants are pitching in to help improve the availability of healthful food in school foodservice.
To learn and share strategies about how to improve school food, operators from a variety of segments within the foodservice industry came together this week in Texas for the “Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids” summit at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus.
“It’s going to take all of us to address this problem,” said Joan Rector-McGlockton, vice president of industry and food policy for the National Restaurant Association, who moderated a “View From the Restaurant World” panel during conference.
Restaurants “are working in very unique ways to support schools in their communities,” Rector-McGlockton said, citing efforts by chain restaurants like Domino’s Pizza and independents like the Country House restaurant in Alsip, Ill.
Steve Clough, director of lunch sales at Domino’s Pizza of Ann Arbor, Mich., said his company’s two-year-old “Smart Slice” pizza initiative, which delivers pies to local schools through franchised units, now serves 160 districts.
The pizzas were created to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional guidelines. The Smart Slice crust has 51 percent whole-wheat flour that provides higher fiber, a sauce that has 35 percent less sodium than Domino’s traditional sauce, and mozzarella cheese with reduced sodium and fat.
Clough on the development of Domino’s Smart Slice pizza:
Pizza is a top entrée served in schools, and more than 90 percent of pizza is frozen, Clough said. In developing the Smart Slice recipes, he added, the research and development team kept in mind advice from foodservice professionals that “it’s not nutritious if the kids don’t eat it.”
Clough said Domino’s plans to expand the Smart Slice line for schools to include more varieties.
“We will continue to develop new flavors and profiles,” Clough said. “We’re wide-open for feedback and information about how we can help, because we want to be part of the solution in schools in America.”
Independent operator Paul Boundas, chef-owner of the Country House in Alsip, Ill., in suburban Chicago, said his Country House Kitchen Co. runs five scratch cooking school kitchens that serve more than 4,300 students, faculty and staff daily.
Boundas on how he became involved in school foodservice:
Boundas shared his goal: “We want to see a chef in every school.”
“We’re going to listen to every student, what they liked and disliked,” he said. “And we want to bring the students into the kitchen and become part of their family as well.”
Boundas has limited typical daily options such as hot dogs, nachos, potato chips and French fries and added roasted chicken breast, homemade soups and fresh salads with dressings from his family’s olive trees in Greece. Country House has also added catering contracts from parents at the schools, Boundas said.
To address nutritional goals in school foodservice, Boundas said, “we’re going to need a lot of different approaches,” from independent restaurants like his to large chains
“This problem is going to take all of our passion and dedication,” he said.