International Flavors Hit School Cafeterias

Following hot trends in restaurants, schools are incorporating foods with bold, fresh international flavors onto their menus.  In particular middle and high school students, with ever-changing palates, are increasingly interested in and exposed to a wider selection of ethnic meals.

At Oxford Community Schools in Michigan, the investment of four induction cookers at the high school have allowed for a fresh stir-fry station serving students each day.

Chicken Stir-fry made to order at Oxford Community Schools (MI).

According to Nutrition Services Director Karen Bissett, students can pick from 13 different items for their stir fry, including fresh ingredients like shredded carrots, spinach, water chestnuts, broccoli, green and red peppers, mushrooms, edamame and pineapple. They have a choice of beef or chicken daily with noodles or rice as the base and eight low-sodium sauces to choose from. The school even started purchasing shrimp to offer as an option on Fridays! The combinations and flavor options are endless.

The school’s Mexican bar offers an entirely different flavor experience. Students have access to rice bowls with options like black beans, refried beans, chicken or beef.

The Mexican Bar offers students a variation of rice bowls and toppings.

Plus, students can choose guacamole and different salsas created with ingredients right from their school garden.

Lasagna roll ups and fettuccine with chicken alfredo are also an option for those craving Italian cuisine. Or, students can make their own personal pizzas – choosing toppings for their whole grain crust.

“We try to look at restaurants that are popular with students and incorporate similar recipes onto our menus,” said Bissett. “We want to stay ahead of the trends in Oxford. We  do our research to see how we can make those same exciting recipes, but using our healthy products. We can recreate these ethnic dishes students already love, with healthier whole grains, lower sodium, less sugar, etc.”

The Wildcats will soon be treated to Korean BBQ in the cafeteria, a new menu offering that the school hopes will continue to support increased student lunch participation.

Oxford school cafeterias will also celebrate International Week starting October 23. School menus will reflect the cultures of the students in the community. Recipes are introduced celebrating foods from India, China, Mexico, Italy and Korea. In a past International Week, parents have even gotten involved, visiting the cafeteria to teach food service professionals how to make homemade authentic Chinese dumplings.

New induction cookers have allowed Oxford Community Schools (MI) to incorporate healthy, made to order stir-fry into their international school meal options.

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