Food Service

Chartwells K12 Reports Huge Popularity for Plant-Foward Meals in US Schools

US school food service provider Chartwells K12 has revealed the top ten most popular meals among K-12 students in the last academic year, with several plant-forward options making the list.

In first place is the Homemade Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese, part of the Veg Out program launched by Chartwells last year. The program features more than 120 vegetarian and vegan meals, and was launched after a survey found that 1 in 3 students rated meat-free options as extremely or very important when choosing school lunches. Additionally, 37% said they would eat school lunches more often if there were better vegetarian and vegan options.

“You would be amazed how many kids are willing to try unfamiliar flavors and ingredients”

In fourth place is the Spicy Basil Tofu Stir Fry, which ranked highly in Chartwells’ Student Choice program (where students sample and vote on cafeteria menus). The customizable Asian Edamame Salad, which allows children to choose their own combinations, comes in sixth.

In eighth place is the Dragon Fruit Banana Smoothie, offered either as a drink or a smoothie bowl. This is followed by the Roasted Potato, Black Bean & Avocado Tostada — another Veg Out option — in ninth place.

Chartwells serves two million meals a day to 4,500 schools nationwide, and used data from schools in almost 40 states to determine the top 10 options.

© Chartwells K12

Plant-based in schools

Schools across the US are increasingly looking to offer more plant-based options, with New York City Public Schools — the country’s largest school district — launching a Vegan Fridays initiative in 2022. In Illinois, a new bill signed last year makes it mandatory for school districts in the state to provide plant-based options.

Meat alternatives such as the Impossible Burger and plant-based nuggets are also increasingly available in schools, following demand from students.

“We have so much fun creating dishes for students, and it’s so insightful to see what becomes the fan favorites,” said Chef Peter Gilhooly, Vice President of Culinary at Chartwells K12. “You would be amazed by how many kids are willing to try unfamiliar flavors and ingredients or menu items from different cultures. This year, kids will be eating delicious and healthy meals that are fueling their bodies and minds for a successful school day.”

ClosePlease login
See all bookmarks