This post is sponsored by Idahoan Foods.
Nutritious school meals play an important role in students’ health and academic performance, and school foodservice operators have worked diligently to give students access to meals throughout the pandemic. Last year, schools quickly adapted to offer grab-and-go meals for students participating in remote learning. Regulatory waivers have extended free meal programs through the end of the 2020/2021 school year, according to the School Nutrition Association.
Changes in how meals are prepared and where they are consumed have created new challenges for school foodservice operators and put an increased focus on ingredients that offer versatility, convenience and labor savings. Idahoan fresh-dried potatoes offer several benefits for K-12 kitchens when it comes to creating meals that work for all students and situations.
“Today’s operators face so many challenges during these times, and now that more schools are beginning to open back up, they are tasked with changing gears yet again while ensuring they have enough product on the shelf,” said Richard Hoelzel, corporate executive chef for Idahoan Foodservice. “Idahoan potatoes give them the flexibility and capability to cook meals that work well in the cafeteria or for to-go meals that are reheated at home.”
Cut down on prep time
Idahoan’s potatoes are made from 100% Certified Idaho Potatoes that have been fresh-dried. The fresh-drying process results in cooked potatoes that can be prepared quickly, allowing cooks to create meals with real, wholesome potatoes — without peeling, cutting or mashing.
In addition to classic mashed potatoes, Idahoan also offers hash browns, potato slices and savory side dishes such as scalloped potatoes.
“Because Idahoan products are shelf-stable, they allow for quick menu changes so operators don’t have to worry about spoilage,” said Hoelzel, who also underscored the importance of the consistency that fresh-dried potatoes offer.
Boost meal participation
The consistency of Idahoan potatoes ensures that recipes turn out the same way every time, but the ability to mix up the menu is also essential to school foodservice. Creativity can understandably be put on the back burner when time and budgets are tight. This can lead to lower school meal participation if students aren’t excited about what’s on the menu. In fact, menu variety was a concern for 56% of school foodservice programs surveyed for a 2020 School Nutrition Association report.
Having a pantry stocked with versatile staples can open a world of culinary possibilities. Idahoan has developed a wide range of recipes using its potatoes — from hash brown potato muffins for breakfast to mashed potato and refried bean tacos for lunch. A half cup of Idahoan mashed potatoes equals one serving of vegetables, and different formulations are available to meet different dietary needs, such as a dairy-free version and an option fortified with vitamin C. Gluten-free mashed potatoes can be used as an alternative to flour-based breadings and batters for coating vegetables or fish.
Hoelzel said it’s tricky to pick his favorite K-12 recipe, but “using our Honest Earth Creamy Mash product to make international bowls is one that I truly enjoy because it is the perfect vehicle for flavor.”
Specifically, he said he enjoys coconut curried chicken with roasted vegetables served over the Honest Earth Creamy Mash and garnished with a dollop of sour cream.
“It is zesty and something unique that will become a school favorite,” he added.
Request a free sample of Idahoan mashed potatoes, hash browns or appetizers.