Growing boys and girls have to eat. There’s no denying that. And from August to June, most kids eat the majority of their meals in their school’s cafeteria.
That’s a lot of meals that school systems are providing. Warsaw Community Schools has a total enrollment of about 7,300 student across eight elementary schools, two middle schools and Warsaw Community High School.
“The number of students that eat breakfast is close to 2,000 daily,” says Janet Moyer, menu planner and nutritional analyst for WCS. “The number of students that eat lunch, including a la carte items, is 6,000.”
So, that’s 8,000 (including the a la carte items) meals that WCS must prepare, daily, throughout the school year. Furthermore, all those meals must meet guidelines set by government entities like Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture. On top of that, there’s the dietary restrictions of some students, such as food allergies.
Taking all of this into account, it could be quite a challenge for WCS to find foods that students like to eat and satisfy governmental guidelines. Fortunately, a company right here in Kosciusko County has a product that students, WCS and the government can all agree on.
Milford Valley, a subsidiary of the Leesburg-based Maple Leaf Farms, won over WCS student’s taste buds with its Chicken Chips. Similar to chicken nuggets, the product is formed to be thin, potato chip-shaped, dippable and meet FDA guidelines.
“That’s always the challenge: healthy and tastes good,” Moyer says. “When we introduce a new item on the menu, we like to have a taste test with our students.”
“Students loved the Chicken Chips,” says Moyer. “We had it last year, and we’ll have it again this year.”
“Back when this relationship started, we were selling our items at ball parks,” says Carmen Darland, marketing director at Milford Valley. The “retail” items Milford Valley was serving at concession stands is a little different than what it serves to students.
The products served at Warsaw Community Schools are rich in whole grains. “The majority of the grain is whole wheat,” Darland says. Also, soy proteins are added to moisten the product and help them meet the FDA’s meat-meat alternative standards. The Milford Valley’s Serenade facility, which employs approximately 125 local folks, is clean, and employees work very hard to produce a safe, consistent and tasty product.
Milford Valley is working to come up with some other items for WCS students. It will be introducing Chicken-N-Waffle Bites (I can personally attest that they are quite tasty) to school administrators at a food show and back-to-school training program this Friday. Milford Valley is also working to adapt one its retail products, Buffalo Chicken Sticks, to meet school lunch standards.