Diverse Options Make Resident Dining More Exciting for K-12 Students

Published on : 2/27/23
  • There is no denying that K-12 school lunches have evolved in the last few decades — thankfully! — and that these changes are driven by the students and their parents. 

    Indeed, Gen X and Millennials are now parents to young children in schools today, and their Gen Alpha kids are exposed to a wider range of food options, beginning at home:

    • Gen Alphas are more likely to explore plant-based proteins and non-dairy options. 
    • According to recent market research, 46% of millennials cook international dishes at home, which means their children are exposed to a broader variety of flavour profiles.

    Couple this data with an ever-evolving student demographic, and food service providers have to keep pace with changing demands in school lunches to meet the needs of the students.

    Changing the Game in Student Dining

    At Sodexo Canada, we welcome the changes and take an innovative approach to K-12 menu design. To us, innovation means challenging the status quo, embracing food trends, and adapting to students’ ever-changing palates and culinary interests.

    Sodexo Campus Canada’s Director of Culinary Experience, Leanne English works with a team of dieticians and regional chefs to create culinary programs that give students opportunities to discover the latest trends, be comforted by traditional meals, and celebrate authentic flavours of the world. 

    In the Campus segment, our menus and dining programs are designed around three standard practices:

    • Scratch cooking — On average, 80% of the food produced on campus is made from scratch, including 90% of baked goods. 
    • Small batches — Cooking small batches at each mealtime guarantees freshness throughout the day. For residents in boarding schools, this means dinner is fresh whether they eat straight after class or arrive after their athletics training later in the evening.
    • Diverse menu options — Whether it’s plant-based options, local and international flavours, or grab-and-go convenient meals, students can rest assured they will find what they are looking for to power their performances throughout the day.

    Promoting Plant-Based Options on Campus

    On average, 40% of our menus are plant-based in the Campus segment — this includes all menu items, from main entrées to healthy snacks.  What this also means, is that a daily entrée is offered to support students who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.

    Our vision for sustainable eating starts in our kitchen. That is why we joined forces with Humane Society International (HSI) Canada to bring health, wellness, and animal welfare to our diverse offers. 

    Many of Sodexo Canada’s culinary professionals have taken a plant-based training course in partnership with HSI Canada. The training explores innovative culinary techniques and is supported by HSI Canada’s Forward Food Program. These training sessions have become networking opportunities for Sodexo chefs to collaborate on ways to increase plant-based menu items in their respective units.

    Verde: A New Plant-Based Culinary ConceptVerde culinary station on campus

    In collaboration with HSI Canada, we recently launched the first-ever location of Verde at Confederation College in Thunder Bay. The 100% plant-based eatery serves dishes such as avocado sushi bowls, plant-based meatball subs, and cheesy tofu scrambled toasts. 

    This collaboration with HSI Canada further displays our passion and commitment to providing nutritious plant-based and plant-forward options to students of every age.


    Bringing Indigenous Cuisine to Dining Halls

    Diversity in menu options also includes local and traditional fare. We partner with Indigenous chefs and work with Indigenous talent within our roster of Sodexo chefs to develop and include healthy and authentic foods from the land in our dining programs. 

    Options include recipes made with traditional and locally sourced ingredients, from grab-and-go snacks and salads to Bannock breakfast sandwiches and native grain power bowls.

    Three exemples of indigenous recipes - Bannock breakfast sandwich, blueberry pemican parfait and three sisters pasta salad


    Elevating Boarding Life for Residents

    Because food brings people together, our dining programs always include events and monotony breakers, creating a sense of community for the students and faculty members. We give our young residents extra attention since it's crucial to us that they feel at home every day.

    Our Let's Dish, Social Pop-Ups, and Kitchen Academy programs offer opportunities for students to share their own recipes, learn cooking skills, and enjoy unique dining experiences with their peers, while seasonal menu rotations and innovative snack and lunch options ensure that there is always something new and exciting to look forward to.

    Mona Law, Senior Marketing Manager, Sodexo Campus Canada, says:

    Creating an exceptional dining experience for our students is at the forefront of our mission. By providing special events and monotony breakers, we strive to bring variety, excitement, and satisfaction to the dining program. We are committed to delivering a positive and engaging dining experience for our students, and we are excited to continue to innovate and improve our services.

    Being a service provider, we have a constant obligation to satisfy the various needs of the students we serve. It is our responsibility to make eating on campus exciting by providing quality, value, flavour and fun.

    To learn more about how we can elevate your school’s dining program, speak to an expert.