Over the past year the mushroom industry, food service directors and meat processors have been hard at work hoping to bring The Blend to the forefront. The outcome of these efforts were obvious at this year’s School Nutrition Conference, and Council Representative Kathleen Pries, was there to share all the benefits of blending with knowledge seeking directors.
The energy, excitement and enthusiasm at the SNA ANC in Boston, Massachusetts last week was palpable. School food service directors from across the nation were eager to visit the Mushroom Council booth to learn about fresh mushrooms and blending.
Located in the United Fresh Pavilion, the Mushroom Council had the opportunity to work with other likeminded exhibitors to bring school foodservice directors real solutions to increase fresh produce consumption in schools. The Fresh Produce Pavilion showcased a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available to schools, as well as highlighted the produce industry’s commitment to helping schools meet the new fruit and vegetable requirements for school lunch/breakfast. With the new “Smart Snacks in Schools” requirements going into effect, and continuing media attention on healthier school meals, it is more important than ever that the fresh produce industry be fully engaged with schools.
To demonstrate how meatless options can be just as tasty, and how The Blend can enhance school meals, we sampled Spicy Mushroom Meatballs, Mushroom Blended Turkey Breakfast Sausage Patties, and Meatless Portabella Cheesesteaks. Attendees were thrilled to hear student’s favorite meals can be made healthier without losing taste, volume or texture. But we weren’t the only ones showing off blending, three additional companies showed mushroom blended products totaling 11 products on the show floor for school foodservice directors to sample and add to their menu.
The presence of mushroom blending at this year’s School Nutrition Association Conference was especially important given the current debate on regulating nutrition requirements in the school lunch program. Concepts like The Blend demonstrate that districts can serve healthier versions of foods kids love without sacrificing taste or acceptance. The acceptance with districts, processors and industry influencers of mushroom blending is a huge opportunity to continue to improve student lunches.
We at the Mushroom Council are tremendously lucky to be included in the groundbreaking group of individuals and organizations that form the School Nutrition Association. We would like to thank everyone at the conference for a truly memorable week!