Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese and other noodle dishes will be popular with students in 2024, according to Chartwells K12. | Photos courtesy of Chartwells K12
What will students be craving in the cafeteria next year? Chartwells K12 has released its annual list of what food trends they believe will be popular with young eaters over the next 12 months.
The foodservice provider compiled the list using data from serving over 2 million meals a day in school districts across nearly 40 states.
Here’s what food trends they believe will resonate with students in 2024.
1. Creative dips
Dips add a burst of flavor and texture to dishes and can be a great way to encourage students to eat more vegetables, Chartwells K12 notes. Roasted Beet Hummus and homemade “House Special” BBQ Sauces are just some of the dips the foodservice provider serves to students.
2. TikTok takeover
Social media is influencing students’ requests in the lunchroom. In response, Chartwells K12 has begun taking inspiration from recipes that have gone viral on online platforms such as TikTok. The foodservice provider aims to make the recipes served in school healthier than their online counterparts by swapping out certain ingredients. For example, instead of serving a baked feta pasta, Chartwells K12 chefs opted for a penne with spinach, bacon and grape tomatoes.
3. Mini is mighty
Operators may want to incorporate miniature versions of students’ favorite dishes into their menus this upcoming year. Students are becoming drawn menu items such as mini waffles, pulled pork sliders and more, the foodservice provider says.
4. Global eats
Global dining continues to be popular with Generation Alpha. Latin American and Asian cuisines seem to be of particular interest to this age group, the foodservice provider notes. Caribbean Chicken Fricassee and Gochujang Chicken Lettuce Cups are some of the global offerings that Chartwells K12 has introduced to its menus.
5. Specialty drinks
Specialty beverages are striking a chord with young eaters. Chartwells K12 is playing up this trend through menu items such as its Avocado Mango Kale Smoothie and Hot Chocolate Milk.
6. Bold spices
Students continue to love dishes with bold seasonings. Using spices also allows chefs to cut back on sodium, says Chartwells K12. The foodservice provider uses spices to bring bold flavors to dishes like its Thai Style Chicken & Noodle Salad and Honey BBQ Sriracha Chicken Grain Bowl.
7. Alternative Proteins
Students see alternative proteins as a way to better their health and protect the planet. A Spicy Avocado Mushroom Quesadilla and Black Bean Sopes are some of the plant-based items offered at Chartwells K12 cafeterias.
8. Noodles everywhere
Noodle dishes of all shapes and sizes are beloved by students. Operators can opt for comfort food favorites such as a Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese or put a global spin on the ingredient through dishes like a Teriyaki Chicken Noodle Bowl.
9. In-season ingredients
Menu items that feature farm-to-school ingredients remain popular with students. Operators can further the connection students have with their food through school gardens, partnering with local farms and more.
10. Food on the run
Soba Noodle Bento Boxes and Homemade Pumpkin Bars are some of the many grab-and-go offerings available to students at Chartwells K12 cafeterias. As kids continue to be busier than ever, they are searching for more meals they can eat on the go.