education food trends

If you haven’t already taken the quiz, you’ll find it here (and no cheating).

1. Students are actually tired of too many options, and there’s a “simplicity trend” back to set menus and traditional comfort foods.
False. Students want customizable food options and a variety of culinary experiences. Rather than a retreat to traditional cafeteria spaces, more and more schools, especially in higher education, are developing food hall-style concepts and dining in open spaces. And the “new comfort food” comes in a world of flavors, as students, regardless of ethnicity, crave a selection of multi-ethnic options.

2. With food allergies on the rise, training on food safety and handling is becoming a must for school foodservice management and workers.
True. Food allergies have been on the rise for some time, increasing 18% between 1997 and 2007. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported that “If a campus serves 1,000 students, statistics predict that 40 of those students will have food allergies, and 30 of them will not have discussed those allergies with the individuals who prepare their food. Sixteen of the 40 will have allergic reactions within a six-month period, and eight of those will be serious reactions.” With the stakes so high, it’s no wonder that schools and their foodservice providers are taking great pains to train employees as well as educate and communicate

3. When it comes to food, the new crop of Gen Z students are surprisingly similar to the Millennials who preceded them at college.
False. It’s a big mistake for foodservice directors to assume that young peoples’ tastes and lifestyles ever stay the same. Gen Z is particularly hard to nail down, because 40% won’t even sit down to eat, demanding instead that their food be available in a “grab and go” format. As a result, educational food systems like that at the Cleveland Consolidate School District now have menus that are over 75% handheld. It’s time for school foodservice to get creative in combining nutrition and convenience.

4. Students increasingly look for healthy food options, and care about how and where the food is sourced.
True.
A Technomics survey reports that 45% of college students, the bulk of whom are now Gen Z, say it’s important to use fresh ingredients, and 44% say it’s important that their school is transparent about how ingredients are sourced. This has led to changes in purchasing and sourcing, and even new student-led partnerships within schools. At Penn State, for instance, students started a farm which now works with the university’s Housing and Food Services to supply tomatoes, cucumbers, kale and other produce. In return, compost from the dining halls is sent back to the farm.

Overall, sustainability, from the food served to the paper products used, is growing as a factor in deciding on what school to attend, particularly if all other factors are equal.

5. The off-campus lunchbreak is a thing of the past, as students feel more and more pressure to study and don’t want to take the time to venture into the community.
False.
A recent global survey by Sodexo found that fewer than half of college students eat lunch on campus. The implication is that schools have both the need and opportunity to make mid-day dining options more enticing, and perhaps more easily portable, as mentioned above.

6. K-12 breakfast programs, proven effective in increasing concentration and alertness, while also reducing tardiness and absenteeism, are getting more innovative in an effort to reach more students.
True.
Free meal programs have grown tremendously in scope and success since their introduction in over half a century ago. The biggest recent gains have been made at breakfast time, when the rush of getting to class on time, and the stigma of needing a free lunch, have previously depressed participation rates.

Recently, schools have been experimenting with a variety of new breakfast formats: in-class servings, “second chance” breakfasts served after first period, and breakfast kiosks positioned around school grounds. (Note: Although these initiatives are prevalent in elementary schools, some, like portable kiosks, could also have a great impact on college campuses, where breakfast is all too frequently skipped.)

7. As many as 50% of U.S. college students struggle with food insecurity, often skipping meals to save money.
True.
A Harvard University study reports that as many as 50% of U.S. college students struggle with food insecurity – in short, they don’t always have sufficient access to food. This is an issue across the higher education spectrum, from community colleges to the Ivy League, and its impact is already being seen in lower graduation rates.

Food redistribution, as mentioned above, is one of the most direct means of redressing this problem, but colleges are also experimenting with a wide range of other initiatives, such as allowing students to donate “meal swipes” from their food plan cards or keeping food services open and waiving fees during school recesses. As with food waste, sustainability, and other social issues, students expect their institutions to be proactive in their problem-solving

8. Food waste is an important issue to students, who are taking action themselves and expect schools to do more.
True.
With nearly 40% of food in the US going to waste, and many of their peers experiencing hunger, students expect their schools to be responsible stewards of food resources, including everything from portion control to food recovery and redistribution programs. But students aren’t waiting for others to take action. Through organizations like the Food Recovery Network, active on over 200 campuses, they are daily helping distribute unused food to community and college food pantries.

So, how did you do? Your score is not so important as your commitment to keeping current with trends. After all, the educational foodservice market demands exactly what the name describes: constant education for the schools themselves on the appeal and impact of food (or its lack), and an orientation toward service, recognizing that students must be nurtured in the broadest sense.


Sources:
Food News Feed: Top College Food Service Trends 2017
Food Service Director: Seven Current Trends College Dining
Campus Dining: Food Recovery Network Eliminating Food Waste
Food Management: Translating the Hottest Food Trends in K-12
Foodservice Director: What Gen Z Wants to Eat
The Guardian: Do students really choose colleges based on how green they are?
Sodexo: International University Lifestyle Survey 2017
ASCD: Cracking the School Breakfast Code
xTensions: Breakfast Kiosks Work
Harvard University: Food Insecurity on College Campuses