Students and staff who have hoped for additional meatless options on our school lunch menus will get their wish starting next month, when Food Service teams across the district will begin preparing entrees featuring Beyond Meat “crumbles.” Starting in February, that means choices such as lasagna, tacos, nachos and pasta will now also be available in a vegetarian option using the crumbles.
“I’m very excited. I hope that this gives those families that have been reaching out to me some additional options when they look at our menu,” said Brian Olson, Director of Food Services. “I think this is a newer concept, and I’m excited to see that new trend introduced into the K-12 industry.”
Until now, the district has offered meatless options at elementary such as a “yogurt lunch” (yogurt, string cheese, bagel, jelly), baked potato bar, cheese pizza and cheesy “rippers.” At the secondary level, meatless options have also included meatless burgers, a black bean patty in a wrap, or a meatless patty on top of a salad.
After receiving requests for more variety in meatless choices, Olson and his team reached out to vendors for meatless crumble products. A meatless crumble is meant to be easily used in recipes that would typically feature ground beef or another ground meat.
Two brands were available through the district’s approved vendors: Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. “We tested both, and decided the Beyond product performed a little better and tasted better,” Olson said. It was also less costly than the Impossible Foods product.
Skyline High School junior Arjun Mandadi said he is one of those students who has hoped for additional meatless options.
“As a vegetarian, I have found it difficult to enjoy the school lunch,” Mandadi said, noting that vegetarian daily specials aside from meatless burgers are rare. Oftentimes the vegetarian burgers are sold out before second lunch, as well, he added.
“Lots of times there are daily specials that look good but they are mixed in with meat so I cannot eat them. As a vegetarian, I hoped that we would be able to separate the meat with the special and then add it as needed for a student who would like that option,” Mandadi said. One of his favorite vegetarian options that have been offered is nachos with beans and sour cream.
Issaquah High School junior Akshay Tandon said that while he eats meat now, he used to be vegetarian, and wondered about the meatless entrée options offered at school – in particular, whether they were the same quality as other choices that are offered. Tandon said he thinks that the menu choices are fairly diverse and not too repetitive. However, he has some food allergies that affect which options he’s personally able to select from the school lunch menu, so he would enjoy seeing additional choices for students with food allergies.
“All in all, I think we have a great school lunch system going and with some small changes it could become even better,” Tandon said. “I really like the ‘Beyond Meat’ idea as well, as someone who has had Beyond products before, I know firsthand that they are super good, and I am excited to see how they fit in to the lunch system in February.”
Gibson Ek High School sophomore Lakshman Cabrera said only the salad bar is typically very eye-catching at lunch. Vegetarians would likely appreciate additional options such as tofu-based entrees, fruit salad, and pizza with something other than just cheese, Cabrera continued, noting that the new Beyond crumble entrees sound satisfying.
The Beyond Meat crumble’s primary ingredient is pea protein, and the company offers this statement about the product: “Peas are legumes. People with severe allergies to legumes like peanuts should be cautious when introducing pea protein into their diet because of the possibility of a pea allergy.”
It will arrive at our kitchens in a 20-pound case of “raw” product, which the kitchen teams will prepare and then freeze in smaller portions. When a featured entrée such as tacos or lasagna calls for Beyond Meat, they’ll thaw the appropriate amount and create that entrée for students and staff at their school that day.
To check our lunch menus for upcoming entrees featuring the new Beyond Meat crumbles, visit our website and select elementary or secondary.
In the photo, Liberty High School Kitchen Manager Cheronne Shafir cooks a batch of Beyond Meat crumbles for use in meatless entrees.