School officials from around New Jersey previewed the newest lunch and breakfast offerings available from food manufacturers for the 2023-24 school year during the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foods Conference at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center last week.
The conference had more than 350 school food service directors, superintendents, and business administrators attend who could sample meals they can order for the 2023-2024 school year that meet the National School Lunch Program requirements.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) administers the USDA Foods Distribution program which takes USDA foods and distributes them to food processors at a reduced cost to school districts.
“The USDA Foods Distribution program provides a cost savings to school districts and at the same time provides nutritious foods that appeal to children’s tastes,” Fisher said. “This conference allows schools officials to preview foods for the next school year so they can make the best meal decisions for their students.
There were more than 40 vendors from several different states that supplied samples to those in attendance.
“This is one of the most important food shows of the year,” said Warren DeShields, director of food service for Bridgeton Public Schools in Cumberland County. “This gives us an opportunity to connect with the vendors and manufacturers, so we are better informed when we make decisions in February.”
Food vendors as well as school administrators understand the USDA nutrition requirements that schools must meet when serving food in schools.
“Being able to get out and see these foods is incredibly helpful for us as we plan our menu options for next year,” said Sal Valenza, the food services director for West New York Schools.
The conference also featured training sessions from NJDA Food and Nutrition Division staff that included Farm to School, Food Distribution, the Summer Food Service Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Child Nutrition.