GAITHERSBURG, MD -- Sodexo said it will be switching the all-beef burgers it sells to its K-12 school accounts to the meat-and-mushroom Blend burger. The change is said to support better nutrition for students in more than 250 school districts.
Recent studies suggest kids are taking more fresh fruits and vegetable at school meals, but not necessarily eating them, according to Sodexo culinary director Lisa Feldman. "In addition to our work incorporating behavioral economics principles into our school nutrition programs to encourage students to both take and consume more fruits and vegetables, Sodexo is also looking at ways to add produce to other things we serve like adding natural and nutrient-packed mushrooms to burgers," Feldman said.
According to Sodexo, the mushrooms blend seamlessly with the meat and most students are either happy with the change or don't even notice it.
The Blend burger contains fewer calories, fewer grams of saturated fat and fewer milligrams of sodium compared to the standard burger for schools. Given the 7 million monthly estimated purchases at Sodexo cafeterias, the company estimates this move will result in a savings of more than 250 million calories, 38 million grams of fat, 15 million grams of saturated fat and 304 million milligrams of sodium from student meals each month.
The San Jose, CA-based Mushroom Council has been working with Sodexo on the introduction of the Blend burger for several years. Sodexo coordinated dozens of pilots to test the burger with students to ensure a seamless transition. When tested with students before the nationwide rollout, 85% reportedly preferred Blend burgers over the previous burger.
To coincide with the launch of the Blend burger, Sodexo and the Mushroom Council designed signage featuring the Eat Brighter campaign developed by the Produce Marketing Association and Sesame Workshop as a part of their commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America. The campaign was developed to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables by positioning popular Sesame Street characters on packages, posters and promotional materials. The custom materials developed for Sodexo elementary schools include posters and salad bar clings encouraging students to eat their fruits and vegetables.
Additional Sodexo segments are also using the Blend burger to provide more nutritious burgers for their customers. Northwestern Dining, part of Sodexo's University segment, participated in the James Beard Foundation's Blended Burger Project, the national campaign challenging chefs across the country to blend mushrooms with ground meat for a "better" burger. Executive chef Chris Studtmann blended 50% beef and 50% fresh mushrooms in a four-ounce burger to improve the flavor, texture and juiciness while reducing calories by 34%, fat by 38% and cholesterol by half.
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