As schools welcome students back, many will open the cafeteria doors for the first time in nearly 18 months. During the pandemic, schools creatively shifted meal service to classrooms, gymnasiums, hallways and even curbside stations. Despite different approaches to serving breakfast and lunch, their goal remained the same: promote student health with balanced, nutritious meals.
A year and a half later, schools’ plans remain varied. Some plan to reopen cafeterias, while others are staying with meals in classrooms and hallways.
Through its Dollars for Dairy initiative, St. Louis District Dairy Council is helping 42 different schools continue to offer nutritious meals that include milk and dairy.
Wherever students choose dairy in schools, they are getting nutrients like protein and Vitamin D to fuel them throughout the day.
Here are a few ways schools are providing dairy in cafeterias-and beyond-with the help of SLDDC’s Dollars for Dairy initiative:
Alternative Breakfast Models: Breakfast is a critical meal that is linked to increased concentration, academic performance and better behavior in the classroom. Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab ‘n Go Breakfast stations and Breakfast after the Bell became popular options during cafeteria closures due to COVID-19. More students eating classroom breakfast prompted some schools to permanently switch from serving the morning meal in the cafeteria. Henry-Senachwine School District in Henry, Illinois, is now serving Breakfast in the Classroom in its elementary and junior high classrooms this fall. With support from SLDDC, each student can enjoy a healthy morning meal that includes milk, yogurt and cheese.
Coffee Bars: High school cafeteria managers recognize the popularity of coffee drinks and now include them on à la carte menus for breakfast and lunch. Serving lattes made with 8 ounces of milk is an innovative way to provide one serving of dairy. Students no longer have to stand in the cafeteria line, as coffee stations, kiosks and self-serve bars allow them to grab their beverages and go on their way.
Smoothies: Another beverage that has grown in popularity, smoothies pack a powerful nutrient punch when made with yogurt, milk, fruit and sometimes vegetables. More schools are embracing this option as it offers a fun way to boost students’ consumption of calcium, along with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Calcium is one nutrient that kids come up short on, and smoothies can help them reach the recommended amount of the bone-boosting mineral. Stark County School District 100 in Toulon, Illinois, is adding smoothies to the menu for its middle and high school students.
Dairy foods, including milk, yogurt, string cheese and smoothies, are not only nutrient-packed, but also portable. Whether schools are serving traditional meals in the cafeteria, from a hallway kiosk or using a classroom cooler bag, dairy is the perfect fit. The local schools awarded Dollars for Dairy grants will provide monthly data and work with SLDDC staff year-round to ensure that their projects are successful.