Spice Up Your Lunchroom with a Flavor Station!
Are you looking for ways to add excitement to school meals? A flavor station is a great way to get kids excited about trying new foods and participating in school lunch. The Flavor Station at the 2018 Smarter Lunchrooms Symposium was a big hit, and with these tips and spice suggestions, you can be on your way to developing a zesty addition to your own school’s lunchroom!
A flavor station is any area where students can self-select spices and low-sodium sauces to add pizzazz to their raw and cooked veggies, fruits, salads, and entrees. They love having the ability to customize their meals, and flavor stations provide them with choice and variety without having to change the menu!
Besides providing a great opportunity for taste tests, flavor stations can be used for nutrition education and outreach. For example, the flavors can be discussed in home economics and nutrition classes, or become subject ideas for art projects.
The steps to creating a flavor station are simple. First, select a site that is easily accessible to all students in a visible, high-traffic area: on the serving line, attached to or next to the salad bar, or on a freestanding cart. Then, choose and order the spices and create colorful, easy-to-read labels for each item. Create a fun name such as “Flavor Town” or “Spice World.” Include a taste description and suggested food pairings for each item to give students ideas for how to experiment. Decorate the area with fun, colorful, age-appropriate signs, train your staff to promote the flavor station, and you’re ready to go!
Not sure which spices to showcase? Popular flavor station favorites include black pepper, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and more. They can also include shelf-stable liquids such as balsamic vinegar and soy sauce (low-sodium varieties) or fresh lemon or lime wedges (cut daily or only serve on select days).
It’s also a good idea to add less familiar spices and regional seasonings that cater to your popular foods – in schools in the Pacific Northwest where salmon is served regularly, for instance, dill and low-sodium soy sauce would be fun options. Regional hot sauce brands (low-sodium varieties) are always a hit with kids.