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Commodity Surplus Ideas

March 1, 2021

It’s no secret that many of you are facing an overabundance of commodity product while feeding drastically fewer students this year. We’ve heard many districts say, “The commodities are coming whether we need them or not.” While they may create terrible space issues in your cooler and freezer, here are some tips to hopefully help you use that surplus and provide your kids with food they’ll eat.

First, three of the most destructive, poisonous thoughts that can stifle creativity in your kitchen are:

It’s Good Enough: Is it? Can’t we all always do a bit better. When your team and staff are mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, adding a little change up can reinvigorate a team. The best sports analogy is when a football team sends in a quarterback to spark the team or a baseball manager goes to the bullpen for another pitcher. I’m not talking about adding people or changing staff, simply look for ways to add a spark. Don’t let it be “good enough”.

Nobody’s Complaining: Are they? They may not be complaining to you, but we all know sometimes we’re the last to hear a complaint. A child will simply stop eating with us and we may never know why. Middle school and Elementary students are much less likely to complain. They’ll simply not eat or bring a sack lunch. Now, High School students? You’re probably going to hear from them or at least the grumbling.

Nobody’s Going To Notice: Will they? This always reminds me of the little boy who was walking down the beach picking up starfish that had washed up on the sand and was throwing them back into the ocean. A man stopped and asked, “Son, what are you doing?” “I’m saving these starfish,” the young man replied. “The old man kind of chuckled, looked around at literally hundreds of starfish on the beach and said, “Well, you’ll never save all of them.” As the young man tossed another into the ocean, he looked up and said, “Nope. But, I saved that one.”  That’s truly the attitude we have to have during these crazy times. If one child benefits from what you’re doing, it’s worth it. Look for that one.
So, with that said, here are just a few ideas to get you started finding ways to get rid of those commodities. Oh, and get your staff involved and listen to their ideas. They need to be heard now more than ever.

Meal Kits

If you’re still feeding virtual students, curbside or take home, consider as many Meal Kits as you can. Don’t let yourself fall into the “well that’s the way we’ve always done it” line of thinking. If you have ground beef, make Taco Kits. If you have chicken, make Fajita Kits or perhaps even something along the lines of the KFC Bowls, where you provide all the ingredients and an empty container for them to make up there own and warm it up. (You might want to add specific directions)

One of the greatest I’ve seen this year was posted back in the spring in a School Meals Facebook page. The district offered a family Chicken Alfredo meal kit! One of their vendors donated some macaroni so they got really creative. They used their commodity chicken strips, powdered Alfredo mix and DOD broccoli. They bagged it up, sent it home and calculated four meals cost only .62 cents! Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!

Don’t Forget The Fruit

Fruit cups are almost always a hit—especially with younger students. Make use of those strawberries, blueberries and more my putting them into a mixed fruit cup. Another I saw used a small container with half a graham cracker in the bottom, strawberries on top of that and a small dollop of yogurt to top it off. It looked amazing!

You’re The Expert

What we’ve tried to do today is to encourage you. To lift you up and get those creative juices flowing. You’ve forgotten more about this than we’ll ever know. Every one of these ideas is not new, but I’ve always heard, “If you know it and someone else is doing it, who’s winning?” Again, get your staff involved, listen to their ideas. Let them be creative! But you know what can go one better?

Get your students involved. When you send the Meal Kits home, ask them to share (either through email that you’ve vetted or on your Food Service Facebook page.) Nothing, and I mean nothing will inspire students more than seeing what they created get some recognition.
We hope if nothing else this has given you some ideas to take with and run. We’d love to hear from you on things you’re doing and we’ll share them in future Smart Bites. This is not a competition. Everyone is in this together. And together, we will come out of this stronger, more resilient and ultimately more successful.

PS: If you’re not a member of the Facebook Group: Tips For School Meals That Rock, you should be! It’s an amazing community of people helping each other.
Your Feed More Kids® Team
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