Making School Breakfast Cool (and Safer): Adopting Top Trends & Managing Food Allergens

A group of children eating lunch at a table.Sep 1, 2023

By Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD

National Peanut Board is always looking for ways to support school nutrition professionals as they work to serve nutritious and safe meals to their students. We’re proud to have partnered with the School Nutrition Association for a new webinar, Adopting Top Food Trends & Managing Allergies at School Breakfast, now available for school nutrition professionals on demand. School breakfast is one area where we believe peanut butter has great potential to help school nutrition experts adopt some popular trends, while meeting student’s nutrition needs. In the webinar, Donna Martin, Ed.S., RDN, L.D., SNS, FAND and school nutrition director in Burke County, Georgia, and I help answer common questions about serving peanut butter products during school breakfast – and to show how peanut butter can fit regardless of how breakfast is served.

Serving breakfast at school seems straight-forward. After all, schools are already serving lunch every day. Yet, school breakfast can be a challenge! First, there’s not much time in the morning between the time a child arrives on the bus and when the first bell rings. Moreover, while lunch service is staggered over a couple of hours or more, all students arrive at the same time in the morning. Here are some ways schools serve breakfast to overcome those barriers:

  • Traditional café service
  • Breakfast-in-the-classroom
  • Via carts positioned around the school building

Most people agree that starting the day with a nutritious breakfast ensures that children are ready to learn when the bell rings. Across the country, schools serve millions of school breakfasts each school day to help fill that gap. In order for schools to meet slim margins, it’s essential that those breakfast meals are delicious and affordable. so that kids actually eat them. Fortunately, peanut butter is also a nutritious food that kids love! Peanut butter is a shelf-stable item that can be prepared the day before and requires no refrigeration, helping ensure a safer option for students when it comes to food safety.

On top of all of this, peanut butter fits perfectly into food trends like vegetarian meals, plant-based protein and ethnic flavors. Great examples of trends that can be reinterpreted for schools include bento boxes, smoothies and overnight oats, just to name a few. School nutrition programs must continue to evolve to meet the sophisticated palates of student customers. Incorporating these hot trends will help elevate programs, making school breakfast as cool as a trip to the local coffee shop.

Managing food allergies is also an essential part of providing safe school meals. Here are some tips for meeting the challenge at breakfast and any time of day:

  • Peanut foods, like all other common allergens, should be clearly labeled on menus and at the point of sale to help students and staff work together to reduce the chance of accidental ingestion by allergic individuals.
  • Alternatives should be available when any allergenic food is offered to help students enjoy a meal that meets their specific needs.
  • Annual food allergy training for staff, including identifying and responding to allergic reactions, proper handling of allergens and more, is an important way to be prepared to manage food allergens.

Learn more about this topic and hear all the best practice tips offered by taking the training via the School Nutrition Association website on-demand at Adopting Top Food Trends & Managing Allergies at School Breakfast. While you’re there, check out SNA’s newly revamped Food Allergy Resource Center for information on serving and managing food allergens in K-12.

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