‘Build Your Own’ Options Offer More Scratch Made School Meal Choices

Following trends in popular restaurants and cafes, Hopewell Valley Regional School District  (NJ) has crafted an exciting and unique menu for students across the district’s six schools. Since scratch cooking was introduced into the food service department about five years ago, the menu selection has continued to grow each year, according to Food Service Director Denise Menza.

Grab N Go
Typical Grab n’ Go section featuring school lunch options in Hopewell Valley Regional School District (NJ).

The district adheres to the USDA guidelines while utilizing ingredients in creative ways, helping to entice students and staff with healthy and delicious meal offerings.

Students have a plethora of choices in their cafeterias, set up in a way that is reminiscent of a food court at the local mall. According to Menza, students’ favorite dishes include “Build Your Own” pasta and burrito bars, açaí bowls, homemade chipotle chicken flatbreads, homemade Rip N’ Dip stromboli and homemade colossal French toast wedges. The Build Your Own bars started two years ago, allowing students to create their own tacos, burritos, pasta dishes, protein bowls and other customizable options through a variety of choices.


“It was evident early on that the students enjoyed selecting their own additions and toppings to their school meals,” said Menza. “Due to the mix of flavors and textures in new menu items, students have received the changes well. Lunch participation on the hot lunch line has increased with the addition of these items as well. Participation is especially high for the ‘build your own’ menu options.”

The Protein Bowl was specifically inspired by the similar item offered in popular New York City cafes. They allow for additional alternative menu items that meet the demands of new and ever-changing dietary preferences. According to Menza, HVRSD has a large population of students and staff who follow vegetarian and vegan diets and has a growing need for gluten-free meal and snack alternatives.

Screen Shot 2019-06-07 at 5.41.35 PMEthnic inspired foods have also become a staple on the school district’s menus, including Korean Street Tacos, bruschetta or parmesan chicken, General Tso’s Chicken and ramen noodle bowls. Similar to a food court setup, students are able to choose from various stations in the cafe daily, with an extensive fresh salad bar; a made-to-order deli bar; a grab n’ go station with ready-made premium salads, sandwiches, bento boxes, fruit parfaits and yogurt parfaits; and a hot “Daily Dish” with homemade entrees at the pasta option, pizza station and American Grille.


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