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Back to school lunches: 3 ways Cargill helps lunchtime heroes nourish kids 

Read Time: 4 minutes

September 08, 2023


Nicki Heaton, Cargill’s foodservice education segment leader



By Nicki Heaton, Cargill’s foodservice education segment leader




Nicki's mother, Linda Langley, poses for a photo with her daughter, Campbell My mother, Linda Langley, poses for a photo with my daughter, Campbell, during her retirement party. Today, I see my mother in many of the foodservice staff I’ve had a chance to work with. My mother taught elementary students in small-town Idaho for nearly five decades.

In a U.S. state with some of the lowest wages for teachers at the time, my mom worked with a small salary and limited resources. Every day, I saw how she did more with less to foster a love of learning in her students.

Today, in my role at Cargill, I see my mother in many of the school foodservice staff I’ve had the chance to work with. They, too, have to do more with less to ensure children have healthy, high-quality meals at school.

Since the pandemic, foodservice directors in schools have been managing supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. On top of that, they must meet strict nutritional requirements — like limits on sodium and sugar — while also providing enticing menu options for kids.

That last part is important, because U.S. school foodservice budgets are dependent on how many students actually eat their food.

It’s a lot to manage. But through all the complexity, I’ve seen firsthand how school foodservice staff go above and beyond to provide students with healthy, delicious meals every day.

These are 3 ways Cargill is helping them do it.


Sunny Fresh egg bites Sunny Fresh egg bites are protein packed and trendy.

Nutritious and on-trend Cargill protein solutions

Ensuring school meals include enough protein is one thing but getting kids to eat — and enjoy it — is a different challenge.

Eggs have been a popular protein source for millennia, but recently, egg-bites have emerged as a preferred choice among consumers, from school-aged children to adults. That’s what inspired Cargill’s Sunny Fresh brand to scramble up egg bites for U.S. school executive chefs.

“Food directors must plan complex menus to delight and feed a very large population nutritiously, and Egg Bites are a great solution: They’re a delicious grab-and-go item that requires almost no labor, are packed with great protein percentages, and are a healthy option,” says Chef Jesse, one of Cargill’s chefs supporting schools with culinary innovation.

And that’s not the only option we’re working on... So, what’s new this year on school lunch menus? Cargill’s Crave House plant-based crumblesmeeting the demand for plant-based protein varieties soaring in popularity.

There’s a lot to unwrap here:

  • The crumbles are 100% plant-based
  • They’re a fully cooked and ready-to-heat choice for kids
  • They can be prepared vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free to suit numerous diets

The only downside? The breakfast line just got longer.


Chefs posing in kitchen Cargill chefs help create school lunch menus with Cargill products.

Getting creative with school lunch menus

What do kids need for proper nutrition? What will kids want to see in their lunches and what will they be happy to eat?

For foodservice operators, these are some of the questions to consider when crafting school lunch menus. It’s a balancing act that Cargill helps with as a global food company — supplying not just food, but also our unique expertise.

We consult with foodservice directors on menu options, tap into our in-house chefs for recipe inspiration and share innovative ideas to bring more healthy food to students.

Keeping that in mind, our products are designed to make things as simple as possible, Chef Jesse explains. “We make the operator’s jobs easier with heat-and-serve, and grab-and-go items that require little labor."


kid eating school lunch

Logistics? We have that covered too

With schools and businesses operating remotely during COVID-19, operations were at a standstill and food service operators experienced labor shortages. When in-person school resumed, not only did they need food — they needed help to serve it.

This is where Cargill delivered.

We know schools need to provide delicious food that’s easy to prepare. Products like our plant based Crave House crumbles are ready-to-heat and can help alleviate the labor challenge. 


Close to home

first day of school For me, this work is personal. I’m a mother of three school-going children — and yes, if you’re wondering, they eat school-prepared meals!

My children recently started back at school for the year. As they do, I’m reflecting on the important role Cargill plays in providing high-quality school food — food that I’m proud to feed my own kids.

And I’m so grateful to the school foodservice staff who are rising to the challenge every day, ensuring our children have delicious, healthy food in their diet.



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