Keep your K-12 lunch menu fun and fresh

July 2022

Keep your K-12 lunch menu fun and fresh

Research has proven that children who eat healthy and balanced meals have increased focus and attention, improved test scores and better classroom behavior. Additionally, by serving more nutritious meals, schools play a significant role in shaping kids’ lifelong eating habits.


K-12 foodservice operators work hard every day to make sure school meals offer kids a menu full of healthy options, and happily, those efforts have been successful. A study led by Friedman School researchers found that schools are the single healthiest place Americans are eating, compared to commercial restaurants and at home.


While nutrition remains a crucial consideration for planning K-12 lunch menus, operators can increase the likelihood that students will opt to eat school lunch vs. bringing their own by offering irresistible choices. Kids’ individual food preferences change constantly. Fortunately, Chartwells K-12 serves millions of students in schools across the country, and therefore has firsthand knowledge of the kinds of foods kids love to eat. These are three of their forecasted trends for the 2022-2023 school year:


Brunch Is a No-Brainer: It’s no hunch—breakfast, brunch and “brinner” keep trending for kids. Change things up with one of these tasty hybrid lunch options.

  • Turkey Sausage & Potato Breakfast Flatbread. Turn pizza day on its head with this breakfast-inspired flatbread, featuring Butterball turkey sausage patties, melty mozzarella, hearty potatoes and green onions.
  • Turkey Sausage & Fries Breakfast Burrito. Combine multiple kid favorites in one simple, satisfying meal using Butterball All Natural Breakfast Sausage Links, along with hot, crispy fries and melted cheddar.

Lunch, Served Old School: Kids’ lunch preferences may be fickle, but some things never change. Try incorporating these healthy versions of retro kid lunches into your menu:

  • Turkey Sloppy Joe Sliders. Sweet, savory and totally messy, kids will love this twist on a classic sandwich made with Butterball K-12 Turkey Thigh Roast.
  • Turkey Pot Pie Soup with Biscuit. Comforting and satisfying, this pot pie soup is chock full of veggies and lean Butterball Turkey Tenderloin Medallions. Add a warm biscuit to serve up “Grandma’s kitchen” vibes.
  • Sriracha Turkey Chili. Butterball Turkey Thigh Roast, black and kidney beans, and a kick of heat will stimulate young minds.


Build Your Own: Kids will love the opportunity to customize their lunches, so offering one of these build-your-own-concepts will be an instant hit:

  • Set up a nacho bar: Deceptively nutritious. Kids will love building their own towering bowl of Green Chili Turkey Nachos with Butterball Turkey Thigh Roast, tortilla chips and any other ingredients that are on hand or most popular with kids. 
  • Offer a sandwich bar: For a balanced and nutritional lunch offering that is simple and endlessly customizable, offer fixings for kids to make their own Italian Baked Turkey Subs. Start with K-12 Turkey Tenderloin Medallions and whole wheat hoagie rolls, then add assorted cheeses, veggies and condiments.


Students look forward to lunch all morning, sometimes even all week. When you offer fun and surprising new options to the scheduled menu, more students will be drawn to the school lunch, rather than bringing their own from home or visiting the vending machines. Using these tips, operators can present exciting and unique options that meet the nutritional needs and ever-changing preferences of students.


What other K-12 lunch trends have you noticed? Share your thoughts on our Facebook or LinkedIn page.









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