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Welcome to the Newest Five Star Restaurant: K-12 Food Hall

Chef Alexa McKay, Tyson Foods Culinary Team

Spicy Korean BBQ, Tangy Thai Lemongrass Chicken, and Garlicky Buffalo Chicken drumsticks – they all sound like delicious dishes on the menu at your favorite restaurant.

But what if I told you these dishes are served for lunch at the local elementary school?

Kids lunch

Meet the newest generation of foodies: kids

Move aside, turkey and cheese sandwiches – pulled chicken, buttermilk biscuits and chicken meatballs are taking over the center of the lunch tray. Millennials aren’t the only ones searching for the next “hot recipe,” kids’ taste buds are also buzzing for new, modern flavors and cuisines.

If you’re wondering if this as big of a trend as we’re making it sound, the numbers speak for themselves:

  • There has been a 283 percent increase in drumsticks on school menus year-over-year
  • Nashville Hot growth is up 137 percent over last year
  • More than half (51 percent) of school districts are offering entrée stations or “made to order” options
  • While finger foods like pizza remain popular for lunch, there’s even a new spin on that: a stuffed pizza breadstick


Chef Alexa McKay
Chef Alexa McKay

As a chef on the Tyson Foods culinary team, my job is to satisfy adventurous taste buds by serving up innovative and balanced options. This year, we’re introducing bold new menu items like Nashville Hot chicken bites and waffle battered chicken bites to America’s school lunchrooms.

All decisions of what is served up by these Five Star Cafeterias is first taste-tested by a panel of judges tougher than the panel on “Top Chef”– the students themselves. To satisfy the cravings of the most kids possible, our new culinary forward creations must receive a score of 80 percent or higher to be served at school. And, what if we’re only passing with a “C”? Our Tyson culinary crew goes back to the kitchen and works on adjusting the recipe until we pass with flying colors.

These emerging kid foodies are more into food than ever before, which makes the lunchroom a great place to test out new recipes. They are leading the way in tasty trends. Kids are our consumers of the present and future, and we’re committed to finding foods that are nutritious and pack a flavor punch for this growing generation.

To put this theory to the test, Allison Reed, Customer Experience Manager, took to the lunch room to ask some pint-sized palate experts about their changing flavor preferences.

Check out the video on our YouTube channel and decide for yourself whether you're Team Broccoli or Team Brussel Sprouts.

Published September 11, 2018.

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