Growing up, many of us remember having terrible school lunches: hot dogs that bounced, hamburgers that doubled as hockey pucks, and of course, every kid’s favorite: lima beans. The highlight of the week was the day many school cafeterias decided to give the people what they want: pizza day. Even the kids who packed lunch lined up to get their hands on a slice or two.
For the fourth year in a row, our Senior Nutritionist, Rachel Huber, and the school lunch marketing team led by John Erik Navarrete from Dallas recently visited the School Nutrition Association’s national conference in Salt Lake City, UT to talk more about Pizza Hut’s effort to make lunches fun and tasty for the more than 32 million students participating in the National School Lunch program. Pizza Hut has been selling pizzas at public schools around the country for many years, and switched things up in 2012 when the White House mandated that lunches across the nation needed to be healthier. From crust to cheese, the Pizza Hut pizza currently offered in schools is a grade above, bringing nutritional quality as well as great taste (without the lima beans).
How do you make pizza in line with mandated standards while at the same time keeping the taste that kids crave? New guidelines from the National School Lunch program inspired our food innovation team to make some key changes. The new whole wheat crust is a hit—made with 51% white whole wheat flour—as well as the cheese with 45% less fat and 40% less sodium (as compared to our regular pizza crusts), sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes, and topping options: white mushrooms, crisp green peppers, red onions, tomatoes, Italian Sausage and pepperoni with 30% less fat (as compared to our regular pepperoni). The Pizza Hut innovation team tested the new recipes with middle and high school students, and heard some great feedback. “I’d rather have this served at school than the other ‘stuff’ they give us,” said one. “This pizza is an original and tastes like someone put some heart into it!” said another.
At the conference, the team from Dallas hosted a booth for teachers and school administrators to try one of the four National School Lunch Program approved recipes. Visitors could also customize their own apron or lunch bag with four different slogans to choose from:
And, for the fourth year in a row, the response to the school recipes was overwhelmingly positive. “We’ve been a customer for the last year and absolutely love it! Participation has gone up substantially, about 16% this year in my junior and senior high schools, and we attribute a lot of that to the Pizza Hut pizza,” reports Jay Turner, Food Service Director at Elwood Community Schools.
Want to bring Pizza Hut to your school? Check out https://order.pizzahut.com/schoollunch for more nutritional information and to be a part of our school lunch program.