Encourage students to beat the heat with a cucumber-themed menu

The special menu was part of Elior’s Fresh Picks K-12 program. | Image courtesy of K-12 by Elior

The nutrition team at Benson Unified School District in Benson, Arizona welcomed students back to school this July with a collection of cucumber-themed menu items to help them stay fresh as the temperatures rise.

The special dishes were made possible in part because of Fresh Picks, a long-standing K-12 program offered by Elior that highlights a different healthy ingredient each month.

“(It’s) a value-added engagement program for all schools, so it will highlight seasonal produce each month and encourage eating more fruits and vegetables,” says Elior Nutrition and Wellness Director Abby Olson.

While Fresh Picks always includes at least one recipe, Food Service Director Adam Gentles decided to take the promotion one step further and created additional options for students to try.

“Usually when I do that, I see a lot more interaction and more engagement with the students,” he says. “They come in and ask about every dish.”

Engage students

For the Fresh Picks promotion, Elior’s K-12 provided a recipe for homemade pickles. Given the extreme heat Arizona was experiencing at the time, Gentles decided to come up with two additional items that he thought would help the students cool down — cucumber salsa and ginger-orange juice.

The juice, in particular, has been popular with students, with many coming back for seconds and asking if it can be served every day for breakfast, Gentles says.

“The students thought this was the greatest thing to see when they had to walk all the way from their classrooms because they had to travel outside to get to the cafeteria,” he says.

While the juice received a lot of buzz, students also gave winning marks for the pickles, and the older students enjoyed garnishing their burgers, salads and sandwiches with the sauce.

“At the end of the day, we ran out of almost everything to sample, so it was good,” Gentles says.

Dealing with high temperatures

As the school year begins, Gentles says he will continue to use the Fresh Picks program to provide creative and fun items to students.

Providing dishes that help students stay calm is also their top priority. When temperatures have risen in the past, Gentles has offered a range of hydrating dishes, including zucchini salad and cranberry smoothies.

“Throughout the year, I will continue to serve a lot of fresh and refreshing meals when it comes to drinks, but also salads and cold appetizers as well,” he says.

(tags for translation) K-12

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