What Does it Take to Make a School Lunch?

Kids Eating School Lunch

Schools in Arizona are generally responsible for at least one meal per day, and sometimes even more. Students who eat school lunch and even breakfast at school should feel comfortable knowing that their food is held to a high standard of nutrition. Parents also rely on schools to feed their children food that they trust is safe, fresh, and beneficial for growing young minds and bodies. Read our blog post below to learn more about nutrition in school lunches, and what it takes to make a balanced school meal. 

Meal Planning for Students 

A lot of effort goes into planning school meals as there are component requirements that must be met. In Arizona, component requirements are based on grade and age in order to tailor to what the children may need at certain times in their life. The requirements in Arizona include these food groups:

  • Meat/Meat Alternate
  • Grain
  • Vegetable
  • Fruit
  • Milk 

Along with component requirements, there are also nutrient requirements. Schools must offer meals, that at a minimum, meet the following

  • Weekly average of calories within defined grade groups 
  • Weekly average sodium ranges within defined grade groups 
  • Less than 10% of total calories from saturated fat 
  • Zero grams of trans fat per portion

Smart Snacks for School Lunches

Arizona schools and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) focus on what’s called Smart Snacks. This new standard focuses on meaningful calories from food instead of empty calories. Empty calories are foods and drinks that have no significant nutritional value. Foods that have high sugars, fats, or alcohol content are thought to have a high amount of empty calories. Smart Snacks recommends items like light popcorn, low-fat tortilla chips, granola bars, or fruit cups as examples of alternatives to chocolate cookies, fruit-flavored candies, donuts, and more. These high-calorie, high-sugar items contain large amounts of empty calories compared to the healthier alternatives. 

How should schools think about sourcing food and supplies? 

One key way to make sure school menus are healthy and fresh is something we’ve all heard of before – sourcing locally. It can be hard to find enough suppliers at an affordable price to accommodate acquiring food from each of the food groups, and enough inventory to feed a school. 

To overcome the barriers to learning how to source locally, there are six tips from USDA and Extension Foundation:

  1. Choose one food to start with
  2. Build Relationships
  3. Give a tour, take a tour 
  4. Work with distributors
  5. Collaborate with colleagues
  6. Highlight your efforts 

Sourcing locally helps avoid food that has traveled a great distance or has lost nutritional value by perishing shortly after delivery. Looking at the first tip, you may want to identify a food that you use often that can be sourced locally. If it doesn’t grow through each season, maybe think of a way you could freeze it and use it later in the school year. 

When you become a customer of Peddler’s Son, your worries are taken away since Peddler’s Son’s produce and provisions are sourced from an array of suppliers. Many of these suppliers are local to Arizona. If you are looking for a one-stop-shop for building your school menu, sourcing certain fresh goods, or even sustainable packaging, Peddler’s Son has what you need to make your school nutrition compliant with the state and USDA policies and make delicious meals for Arizona’s youth. 

Peddler’s Son is a Trusted Local Supplier 

Peddler’s Son is the go-to supplier for Arizona restaurants, hospitals, schools, and more. Family-owned and operated since 1988, Peddler’s Son brings you honest pricing, unparalleled customer service, and farm-fresh produce every day. Want to change up your school lunch menu? Contact us today to receive your portal login and get started! 

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