School nutrition professionals were making healthy changes to menus long before updated federal nutrition standards for school meals took effect. SNA’s Tray Talk blog,, and Facebook page for parents,, feature school meal programs nationwide that are finding creative ways to improve menus and get students excited about healthier choices.

Notable Trends Include:

Kid Favorites Made Healthy

Popular menu items are nutritious choices! School pizza is prepared with whole grain crust, low-fat cheese and reduced-sodium sauce. Macaroni and cheese features whole wheat pasta and low-fat/sodium sauce. Even chocolate milk has gotten a makeover and is now lower in sugar.

Chef-Inspired Recipes
Many schools have trained chefs on staff or partner with local chefs to develop new menu items and to help get kids excited about trying healthier menu choices. Schools are mixing up the menu with restaurant-inspired recipes and mirroring popular food trends with customizable or build-your-own entrees. Some schools even serve popular menu offerings from food trucks!

More Local Sourcing
Schools are purchasing more local foods directly from farmers and through co-ops and produce distributors. USDA has found that nearly 43,000 schools, representing 23.6 million students, are purchasing nearly $790 million in local foods. To find out about local sourcing, farm to school programs and school gardens in your area, visit USDA’s Farm to School Census.

Ethnic Flavors
School cafeterias are catering to increasingly diverse student bodies. These days, cafeterias are dishing up more ethnic recipes that appeal to students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and help expand student palates. Learn how Oxford Community Schools in Michigan has incorporated international flavors in school menus.

Student Involvement
School nutrition professionals want students to enjoy the nutritious foods offered with school meals, but sometimes students are hesitant to try new menu items or unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. Schools host student taste tests and offer free samples to encourage kids to try healthier fare, gather feedback on new recipes and identify student favorites. Kids cooking classes, school gardens and nutrition education programs are also helping students become open to the healthy choices in the cafeteria.