Survey Revealing Schools’ Demand for Cranberries Released for National School Lunch Week by US Cranberries

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New recipes and increased availability of this USA-grown fruit would encourage greater use of cranberries in school foodservice.

Scott J. Soares, Executive Director, US Cranberries at School Nutrition Association's Annual Conference

“I love cranberry sauce but I also know that there are thousands of other exciting ways these healthy berries, in any form, can be used to enhance school meals and student nutrition -- Scott J. Soares"

Schools across the country celebrate National School Lunch Week from October 14 -18, 2013. The theme, “School Lunch Across the USA,” will celebrate the flavors, ingredients, and cultures of various regions of the USA—as the cranberry is one of only three commercially cultivated native North American fruits, it is an integral part of this theme.

As schools across the country celebrate their regional culinary specialties, U.S. Cranberries representatives announced today the results of a recent survey that shows school nutrition professionals’ preferences and usage of cranberries in school foodservice.

Following encouragement by the USDA to better understand opportunities for broader consumption of cranberries in school food service, the survey was designed to gather information about the use of cranberries among schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). More than 200 foodservice professionals took part in the survey at the 2013 School Nutrition Association (SNA) Annual Nutrition Conference in Kansas City, Missouri July 14-17, 2013.

“Considering the many health benefits of cranberries, we wanted to find out directly from foodservice professionals what some of the barriers are to regularly incorporating cranberries into school meals and what we might do to overcome them,” said Scott J. Soares, Executive Director, U.S. Cranberries.

Dried fruits, including cranberries, are creditable toward the new NSLP guidelines and may be used in the competitive foods program. Additionally, dried fruit credits at twice its volume, providing the equivalent of ½ cup of fruit in school breakfast and lunch for every ¼ cup served. A serving of fresh cranberries is a good source of vitamin C and fiber, provides antioxidant polyphenols, and contains only 1 mg of sodium.

One key finding from the survey was that 90 percent of respondents would be more likely to use dried or frozen cranberries if they were on the USDA Foods Available List.

  •     Of those people more likely to use cranberries if they were on the list, an overwhelming 97 percent stated they would use dried cranberries.
  •     Approximately one-quarter of respondents said that they would use fresh or frozen cranberries more frequently if these were listed.

Survey respondents suggested that adding dried cranberries to the USDA Foods Available List would help schools overcome cost factors by making cranberries available for purchase with entitlement dollars. Currently only cranberry sauce is listed on the USDA Foods Available List but US Cranberries is working with USDA to expand the list to include other cranberry product forms.

“I love cranberry sauce but I also know that there are thousands of other exciting ways these healthy berries, in any form, can be used to enhance school meals and student nutrition,” said Soares. “Our introduction of five new school foodservice cranberry recipes at the SNA Conference was on target, as we learned from many of the survey respondents that the lack of such recipes was one of their constraints to more cranberry use."

Following the School Nutrition Association conference in July, U.S. Cranberries representatives received over 1,600 clicks from post-SNA outreach communications. The five new recipes unveiled in the Cranberry School Nutrition Toolkit include: Cranberry Harvest Pasta Salad with Veggies, Cranberry Brown Rice with Veggies, Cranberry BBQ Chicken Sandwich, Cranberry & Turkey Stuffing Casserole, and Cranberry Salsa Chicken Wrap.

As part of National School Lunch Week, U.S. Cranberries encourages schools in cranberry-growing regions to connect with their local cranberry farmers to help students better appreciate their state’s local fruits.

U.S. farmers produce more than three quarters of a billion pounds of cranberries per year. Cranberries are grown primarily in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington and Oregon. They are also grown in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Michigan.

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