Tag Archives: nutrition

School Nutrition Standards: What You Need to Know

Now more than ever, Americans are focusing more on nutrition. Many food service establishments are offering a wider variety of healthier options – including gluten-free, dairy-free, all natural, vegan and vegetarian.

The focus on more nutritious foods certainly has caught on in schools, as well. In February 2013, a proposed rule was presented to require the USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold in school. These school nutrition standards will go beyond the current Federal child nutrition programs for schools.

Starting July 1, 2014, the new standards will go into effect at schools nationwide. The law specifies that the standards apply to all foods sold at schools, any time of the day. This includes a la carte items in the cafeteria, snack bars, and vending machines.

General Standards for Food

To be allowable, a food item must:

  • Be a whole grain rich product, or
  • Have a fruit, vegetable, dairy, or protein food be the first ingredient, or
  • Be a combination food that contains at least ¼ cup fruit and/or vegetable or
  • Contain 10% of the Daily Value (DV) of a nutrient of public health concern (i.e., calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dischool nutrition blenderetary fiber)

For more details, read the full school nutrition standards from the USDA.

Products For School Nutrition

To help keep school foods healthier, why not try some new equipment? Central carries many options to allow users to easily prepare the healthiest meals!

  • Blenders and food processors can be a great way to change things up in your cafeteria. They can be used to make soups, sauces, nut butters, and delicious healthy smoothies! You can also save money by using unused produce in one of these items to create new recipes.
  • Combi ovens are a great option for schools. They have three functions – convection, steam, and combination cooking. These ovens provide a versatile and healthy way to prepare a variety of foods. Use a combi to cook rice, vegetables, fish, and much more. Combi ovens help to reduce shrinkage, which can help to preserve your food product. If different dishes are prepared at the same time, each retain its flavor, vitamins and nutritional value.
  • Tilting skillets are another versatile piece of equipment. They have a large capacity and can be used to grill, simmer, braise, and more. The tilt design allows for convenient transfer of food to serving pans.

school nutrition combi

Whatever your school needs, Central is here to help! Call us at 1-800-215-9293 or shop online today!

2011 Foodservice Trends and 2012 Predictions

Last December, we searched all over and compiled a list of 10 foodservice trends for 2011.  Overall, all 10 items on our list have been successful as far as the predictions go.  Take a look at the list for a quick refresher, then read below about some of the major trends that have now become mainstream.

Food Trucks

It’s been incredible to see how the food truck has evolved this year.  They’ve gone from something people were skeptical about to full-blown restaurants on wheels, serving everything from comfort foods and pizza to ethnic cuisine and desserts.

According to the Mashable infographic, “The Rise of the Social Food Truck,” almost 2.5 billion people eat street food.  Food trucks heavily rely on social media, which for most is their No. 1 way to advertise.  They just send out a tweet and Facebook status about where they will be and when.  This gives customers the convenience of different options close to them.

What is even more fascinating is how many food trucks team up together, park near each other or event go to events together.  Whether you love the food or own a truck , check out the Mobile Cuisine website for some great information on the industry.

Social Media/Mobile Ordering and Apps

While many restaurants have probably been using social media for quite some time, it seems as though this year its fully come mainstream.  In Nation Restaurant News’ webinar “The State of Social Media for Restaurants,” panelist Paul Barron (founder of DigitalCoCo) said in his presentation,

“87 percent of restaurant brands have identified social media as a main force for guest connection.”

After all, according to this New York Times article, social media is the most popular way Americans spend time online.

When looking into mobile ordering and apps, restaurants are implementing tablets (i.e. the iPad) in restaurants more and more to increase customer service and productivity (note—these aren’t replacing the wait staff).

At this year’s MUFSO conference (Multi-Unit Foodservice Operator), during New York Times’ Technology Columnist David Pogue’s session, he stressed the importance of restaurants not only using social media but to start looking into smart-phone apps too.  We’ve seen restaurants bring in the tablet, but having an app could be another solution to increasing productivity.  Pogue did take into consideration restaurant’s fears of using social media. His response was,

“But if you use it right, there are some incredible things you can do.”

Better Nutrition and Local/Hyper-Local

This year we’ve seen huge changes with restaurants becoming healthier.

Image from ChooseMyPlate.gov

Restaurants like McDonald’s and Arby’s have changed out fries with apple slices in their kid’s meals, Darden Restaurants recently announced their goal to lower sodium and calorie counts must be posted in certain areas–just to name a few.

The food pyramid got a fresh look this year too, as the USDA released “MyPlate” which replaced the food pyramid.

Schools are definitely headed in a healthier direction with updated nutritional standards.  The School Nutrition Association (SNA) gave the following statistics in this press release from their State of School Nutrition:

  • 98% of American school districts offer fresh fruit and vegetables
  • 97% have expanded the access of whole grains
  • 89% offer salad bars or pre-packaged salads
  • 98% have fat-free or 1% milk

Schools have also added many programs that work to bring in local foods.  When it comes to local in general, people and restaurants are pushing more support for local farmers.  Many restaurants are even taking local a step further and going hyper-local by growing their own food.

What’s In Store for 2012?

Image by Gregory Dicum on the NY Times website

While predictions for 2012 foodservice trends are just now beginning to surface, there are a few to start watching.  We may start to see more artisan and comfort foods on menus and maybe even celebrity food growers (which take it a step ahead of celebrity restaurants).

A trend that we’re already starting to notice is the “all-day” menu at restaurants that meet the demand for food at all hours of the day and night.  Also, pop-up restaurants may also be on the rise.  They are already starting to appear more and more, such as “Goodness,” a fashion week pop-up that provided healthy menu options.

We’ll continue to follow these and will provide our Top 10 Foodservice Trends for 2012 at the end of December. Let us know, what are you seeing? What’s been your favorite trend of 2011?

10 Foodservice Trends for 2011

Within days we will say goodbye to another year and will welcome a new one. In 2010, there were many new foodservice trends; Gourmet-on-the-Go, “Fine Fast” Sandwich Shops, Boutique Booze and Eggs All Day are just a few of the trends mentioned in a Convenience Store News article. While many of the trends that began this year will continue on, many new ones are on the rise.  Here is a look at what some sources are reporting for the New Year.

1.      Food Trucks

In a Foodservice Equipment and Supplies (FES) article on upcoming trends, they bring up the food truck. We’ve seen and/or heard about them and they have even made headlines in Chicago for banning them. More food trucks may begin to appear in 2011—and what makes them different than in the past according to the article is the fact they are being used as “brand extensions and catering aids.”

2.      New Cuts of Meat

“Newly fabricated cuts of meat” is an upcoming trend described by Missy Frederick of the Washing Business Journal. She asks, “Have you heard of a Denver steak? The pork flat iron, the Petite Tender?” These are what chefs are saying will be a hot trend for the upcoming year. While these will become more popular, it will be interesting to see if there is any downfall when new guidelines go into effect Jan. 1, 2012, making it mandatory for there to be labels on raw meat and poultry.

3.      Hyper-Local

Buying from local business has been increasing in popularity over the past few years. Some restaurants are taking local to an even further level—they are growing their own products and doing their own butchering. In another article by Frederick, she discusses this trend and says places like Restaurant Eve and Bourbon Steak are already being hyper-local and more restaurants may move this way in the New Year.

4.      Social Media

Social media has been on the rise for quite some time and its popularity is as high as it’s ever been—especially for businesses and restaurants.  In the Harvard Business Review, they say 2011 “will be the year these companies take a look at integrating social media, not only regionally, but globally.” Many different news sources are pointing out the importance of social media, and we might see it being such an important marketing tool for 2011 that some of those who aren’t using it might be missing out.

5.      Sophisticated K-12 Cafeterias

This is what is titled in FES’s “Top Design Trends for 2011.” Currently, many college campus cafeterias have the open food court with several different food concepts and registers scattered throughout. According to this article, grade, middle and high school cafeterias might move in this direction.  This could possibly work hand in hand with the fight against childhood obesity as more concepts would provide children with more variety in healthier choices.

6.      Better Nutrition

We have reported on health and nutrition in our blog and it’s been heavily covered in news articles all around the country.  Many different news sites are discussing 2011 being a year of healthier food trends—not only for schools but also restaurants and fast food chains.

7.      Alcoholic Beverages

A recent Nation’s Restaurant News article says alcoholic beverage sales will increase next year.  This ranges from people entertaining guests at home and also in restaurants. FES mentions this in an article and says “’Mad-Men’ style retro cocktails, high-cachet gin and bourbon, craft beers and punch (including sangria)” will be on the rise.

8.      Mom and Pop Shops

While these could have some competition with those food trucks we just mentioned, Restaurant Hospitality says we will see more “mom and pop” shops popping up. They describe these as “self-financed and self-built restaurants” that usually have 40 or less seating arrangements. They say if someone is pondering the idea to open up a shop like this, now is the time to do it.

9.      Online and Mobile Ordering and Applications

If you can order a pizza through a text on your phone, just imagine what will be available in years to come. Not too long ago, we reported on digital menus! So there is a growing trend of technology in the industry.  Technology gives customers more control—and they like that feeling. But it’s not just online/mobile ordering that will be on the rise, it will be a variety of applications.  For instance, on the Sacramento Bee’s hot food trends for 2011, they’ve put down the “iPad wine lists.”  They say the New York Times found Bone’s wine sales increased 11 percent just two weeks after they rolled out their wine list on the iPad. It looks as though the mobile trend will continue to grow and make things quicker and more convenient for customers.

10.  Korean Food

Mexican and Chinese are two of the many types of popular ethnic cuisine in America and many top trend lists are pointing that Korean food will join in for 2011. This will range from food trucks, street food and restaurants.

There are many lists for 2011 trends for the foodservice industry. It will be interesting to see which trends make it and which ones don’t. We’ll follow up on these to see what rises in popularity.

Everyone at Central wishes you and yours a very safe and happy 2011.

Status of Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act

We are hearing more news lately, both good and bad, about nutrition in United States’ school cafeteria’s. Over the last few weeks we have been looking into how schools are becoming healthier for students—briefly mentioning the Child Nutrition Act.  But where does the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act actually stand?

To give a little bit of history—it was first recognized in the 1960’s when the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 was created to meet the nutritional needs of children in the most effective way possible.

In June 2004, the child nutrition reauthorization bill, called the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, was signed into law.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Healthy Fundraising website describes the purpose of the reauthorization as a way to bring several improvements to child nutrition programs by “expanding the availability of nutritious meals and snacks to more children in school, in outside school-hours programs and in childcare; and improving quality of foods in schools.”

The bill is supposed to be revised every five years, but was extended in 2009 for one year.

Last Thursday, September 30, the bill was set to expire, but the House of Representatives delayed the vote.

“The vote was delayed until after the autumn recess instead of passing a two-month extension of the overall federal budget.  The Senate unanimously passed their version of the bill in August,” Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) says.

Despite the current version not having proper funding to fundamentally transform school food, the HSC says it does “have the potential” for the health of children to be significantly benefited as it will put in health-promoting policies in place right away.

The bill addresses obesity and hunger as well as small increases in reimbursing schools for meals provided to students but in an article by AgWeek, they explain the Senate recently passed a bill reducing future food stamp benefits by $2.2 billion to pay part of a $4.5 billion increase in school meal budget for the next 10 years—which is objected by Anti-hunger advocates as well as 100+ Democratic members of the House.

“This is not a perfect bill,” says HSC. “It still leaves schools with very limited resources to provide school food, and we urge Congress to find funding for the bill without taking funding from food stamp benefits.”

They encourage people to take action and to ask lawmakers to support a timely reauthorization. The “Take Action” section of their website is for those interested in sending a letter to their U.S. representative.

Childhood Obesity: How To avoid it.

Childhood obesity is becoming a very serious issue and health risk. 1/3 of American children are considered overweight or obese. There is speculation as to why this is happening and theories on how to fix it. Communities are coming together to create healthier eating environments, to teach children about healthy foods and to create healthier food options at schools. Baldwin Park, California is one example. A national group called Healthy Kids Healthy Communities has expanded to this town. They have been able to make salad bars a stable in local schools, 100 minutes of physical education every week a requirement and place labels at groceries to show healthy food choices. After doing this in 5 years over 135 children are no longer overweight.

Experts believe it is becoming a luxury to eat healthy foods. They are more expensive. We all know examples within our local grocery stores buy one example of this in the fast food industry is McDonald’s. It costs less to buy a large value meal including a drink than it does to buy a salad and bottle of water. Many people believe increasing taxes by 1 penny per ounce on sugary foods and drinks would cut the consumption by 10% and raise billions of dollars to fight obesity.

Experts have many opinions on what should be done to fight obesity, but not all are in agreement. The basics are as they always have been, modernized of course.

  • Expand the idea of exercise. Take up rollerblading, golfing, swimming, or karate. If you would prefer to stay inside invest in a Wii fit or other game that will raise your heartbeat.
  • Make it easy: Plan ahead. Children should exercise approximately 1 hour a day. If they aren’t in after school activities be ready to do some sort of exercise in the evening.
  • Make exercise a family affair. Parents are role models. Go outside and play with your kids, turn on your Wii fit and work out, go rollerblading. Do things together.

Watch the following video for more information on childhood obesity.


Is eating junk food addictive? A new study says yes.

Source: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

According to a new study published this past Sunday in “Nature Neuroscience,”  junk food can be as addictive as cocaine or nicotine.   In addition, the study says that these foods can also lead to compulsive eating and obesity.

Using rats, researchers found that high-calorie foods can trigger addiction-like responses in the brain, turning rats into compulsive eaters.  These overweight rats had decreased levels of a specific dopamine reception, as has been reported in humans addicted to drugs.

Although researchers have been able to find these statements to be true about rats, they are unable to directly relate them to human behavior and activity at this time.   However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned.  Take a look at these startling statistics:

How can we protect ourselves?  Just monitor your habits; moderation is key.   According to one researcher from the junk food study first mentioned,  Paul Kenny of The Scripps Research Institute in Florida, eating one or two foods with high calorie counts is not the problem.  “What we’re seeing in our animals is very similar to what you’d see in humans who overindulge,” he said. “It seemed that it was okay, from what we could tell, to enjoy snack foods, but if you repeatedly overindulge, that’s where the problem comes in.”

National School Breakfast Week starts March 8

School Breakfast - Ready, Set, Go!

Source: schoolnutrition.org

The 22nd annual National School Breakfast Week will be March 8-12, 2010.   Sponsored in part by the School Nutrition Association, the program helps to raise awareness of the availability of the School Breakfast Program to all children by celebrating a fun theme. For 2010, the theme is “School Breakfast…Ready, Set, Go!”

The SNA offers a variety of free tools and resources that school foodservice staff can use and distribute to communicate the importance of eating a healthy, balanced breakfast. The free materials teach students that eating a school breakfast makes them ready for a day of learning and achievement, and meets dietary guidelines.

Other free resources from the SNA include Menu Ideas, Activity Sheets, Downloadable Presentations and more.

Celebrate National School Breakfast Week at your school by trying a few new breakfast options:

Fresh Fruit Bowls: Use fruit choppers/wedgers to quickly prep apples, melons, citrus and more for a bright, healthy menu choice.

Bran or Whole Wheat Baked Goods: Add in some seasonal fresh fruit for increased flavor, color and nutritional value.  Try different formats for the finished product, such as muffins, breads or cakes.

Flavored Milks: In addition to the standard varieties of white milk, offer your students options like strawberry-, chocolate- or banana-flavored milks.  The additional options may appeal to students that “don’t like milk.”  Use a milk cooler that can hold milk crates–you won’t have to spend time sorting the different varieties you offer.

Scrambled Egg Whites: A healthier option than traditional scrambled eggs, you can add extra flavor and color by throwing in some shredded cheese, diced vegetables or cooked meats.  Quickly make up a large batch using a tilt skillet.

French Toast Sticks: Serving full slices of French toast can easily result in students eating more than recommended serving sizes, or large amounts of uneaten foods that get thrown away.  Before cooking, cut full slices of bread into 3 equal parts to easily control proper serving sizes and reduce food waste.  Use syrup dispensers to let students serve their own syrup to save your foodservice staff time.

Have any breakfast ideas you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them!

Economy to drive foodservice trends of 2009

In 2009, the (lousy) economy will be the driving force behind trends we saw emerging in 2008, including energy conservation and sustainability, health and nutrition, and new technologies like online ordering, mobile applications and social networking.

Tough times inspire change

According to a poll conducted by the National Restaurant Association, the issue that had the greatest effect on companies in 2008 was –surprise!- the economy, followed closely by rising food costs, food safety, and nutrition and calorie legislation. So, although these are not new concepts, I think they’ll be back with a vengeance in 2009.

Not just about saving the planet anymore

Foodservice operators are scrambling to improve efficiency and productivity in light of the economic downturn (can we finally just call it a recession?), so I think sustainability and energy conservation will continue to be at the forefront of foodservice trends in 2009; now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because our livelihood may depend on it.

According to the Associated Press, restaurants, colleges and other institutions are coming up with new, innovative ways to cut waste. We’re beginning to realize that these practices are good for more than just saving the planet—they’ve also helped improve the reputation and bottom line of many dining establishments.

I think it’s kind of a shame that it took some –but not all!- of us an economic crisis to become interested in “green” business and conservation. But, regardless of the reason, it can only help keep the industry afloat during these tough times.

Healthy eating trend sparks conversation and controversy

In the same way that we’re learning about the importance of conserving energy, we’re realizing that promoting health and nutrition will be crucial to staying prosperous in the foodservice business.

The controversy surrounding menu labeling, and the efforts of restaurants to introduce more healthful menu items, are just two examples of America’s new interest in healthy eating. And a 2008 investigation that found some restaurants had published inaccurate nutrition information, shows just how seriously consumers and federal regulators are taking it.

Niche Web communities maturing

It also shows just how much the Internet, and the developing trend of social networking has affected the industry. Whereas once, an obscure report in a trade journal would be overlooked by just about everyone, most consumers now have the tools to research and share just about any piece of information that’s out there.

And whereas, in 2008, we dabbled in social media, and restaurants began publishing menus online and a few even created the capability for online ordering, in 2009, this is a trend that the lagging economy will force everyone to embrace.

Not only will businesses have a web address, but they will become more conscious of their online presence; they will be more saavy when it comes to search engine optimization and PPC marketing. They will use the Internet to promote special events, catering, promotions and merchandise. They will offer applications for customers to download to their mobile phones. They won’t do it because it’s trendy; they’ll do it because they have to.

According to Food-Management.com, “Web community is important to more than just the ‘geeks’ among us. It also matters in personal and professional group life, and the food service industry — where networking is such a critical activity — is no exception.”

In closing, I think there are tough times ahead, but I think we as an industry are innovative –and perhaps, desperate!- enough to continue to develop new ways to prosper.

The economy is forcing us to save money by eliminating waste and conserving energy; the obesity epidemic is helping us realize that we can serve healthy food and that our customers will appreciate it; and the Internet is allowing us to do it together, using our growing network of online customers, colleagues and friends.

I think 2009 is going to be a great year for foodservice.