6 Reasons Why K-12 School Kitchens Love Today’s Frozen Foods
Jan 10, 2024
American schools have made a heroic effort to serve more vegetables and fruits to their students. But, due to seasonality, serving fresh produce throughout the school year can be challenging. The quality of fresh produce can be inconsistent. And, of course, it often spoils before schools can serve it.
High-quality frozen vegetables and fruit can overcome the limitations of fresh, driving more value for K-12 schools while providing the outstanding nutrition kids need to learn.
Here are the six biggest reasons K-12 schools find frozen products the perfect complement to their fresh produce program.
1. Frozen foods reduce labor and save time in K-12
Even after the pandemic, labor remains hard to find for K-12 foodservice, and available workers often have modest kitchen experience. This can make processing vast amounts of fresh produce unworkable, depending on the item.
With frozen vegetables and fruit, all of the washing, peeling, pitting, slicing and dicing is already done, saving hours of labor. Prep is as simple as heat and serve, and your food is ready to serve in minutes instead of hours.
Simplot Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Frozen Vegetables and Fruit go one step further: you don’t even have to cook them. That’s a big advantage over conventional frozen products that must be heated to 165℉ to ensure food safety. Thanks to Simplot’s unique High Care Processing, you can simply thaw and serve our RTE products straight from the bag. Think about how much time you could save on cold applications like salads and salsas—no more cooking and cooling!
2. Frozen foods have a ton of kid appeal
Today’s frozen vegetables and fruit are a lot more enticing than they used to be. On-trend products like Simplot RoastWorks® Roasted Vegetables and Fruit elevate your menu items in the eyes of both students and staff. Flame-roasting adds color and rich flavor that makes it easier to get kids to eat these healthy foods.
3. Frozen foods protect against supply chain disruptions
Supply chains are still recovering from the pandemic and supply disruptions remain a fact of life for K-12 kitchens. The long shelf life of frozen foods is a lifesaver here, as well. It allows schools to purchase in bulk and store food for extended periods, reducing the risk of running out of supplies due to unexpected disruptions.
In addition, buying and storing frozen foods can be more cost-effective in the long run. It reduces the need for frequent deliveries, which can be costly and subject to price fluctuations and supply chain issues.
And don’t forget, Simplot Ready-to-Eat Frozen Vegetables and Fruit can be stored refrigerated (and unopened) up to 6 days after thawing.
4. Frozen foods enable better grab-n-go options
Grab-n-go items are a vital revenue stream for K-12 foodservice. Frozen foods can help here, too. For example, kids love avocado, but the cost of waste and spoilage can cause K-12 menu planners to hesitate. Frozen avocado products, like Simplot Harvest Fresh® Avocados Western Guacamole 2 oz Cups, delight kids with the flavor of 100% Mexican Hass avocado. And it comes in a to-go-ready package that eliminates concerns about spoilage and portioning.
Simplot’s Ready-to-Eat Frozen Vegetables shine here, too. Just thaw them in a refrigerator overnight, then serve them on items like grab-n-go salads, just as plump and colorful as the day they were harvested.
5. Frozen foods promote better kitchen safety
Kitchen injuries are a serious issue in any kitchen. But in those with less skilled labor, peeling and slicing items like sweet potatoes and onions with a knife can be downright dangerous. With frozen vegetables and fruit, all of that work is already done, so your staff has fewer occasions to pick up a knife.
6. Frozen foods reduce food waste
It’s a fact: as much as 64% of fresh weight of produce is lost to processing and trimming before it ever reaches the table, more than doubling the effective price per pound.1 But with frozen food, all the husks, peels, pits and seeds are gone before they reach you (and, in Simplot’s case, repurposed as livestock feed). Bottom line: you only pay for useable product.
Moreover, fresh produce, dairy, and meats have a limited shelf life and can spoil quickly. Freezing these items preserves them much longer, reducing the likelihood of throwing away food because it has gone bad before it could be used.
The long shelf life of frozen foods allows for more flexible menu planning. This can reduce waste resulting from unsold or unused perishable items bought for specific meals that didn’t sell as well as expected.
Finally, frozen foods can be used in exact quantities needed, minimizing excess. For instance, a chef can use a portion of a frozen vegetable package and return the rest to the freezer. On the other hand, fresh produce must be used quickly once it’s been cut, leading to potential overuse and waste.
Frozen foods are good for students and schools
According to the USDA, frozen vegetables and fruit have the same (or better) nutrition as fresh produce. That’s because freezing locks in their vitamins and minerals soon after harvest. By comparison, fresh produce may spend weeks in the supply chain, during which nutritional value naturally degrades.
So, if nutrition for kids is your top priority, you can be sure you sacrifice nothing by serving frozen products. And, when you consider all the other operational advantages frozen vegetables and fruit offer, it’s no wonder K-12 foodservice loves frozen.