A new joint effort between the Mushroom Council and Sodexo to promote healthy school lunches and more produce in cafeteria meals, is taking form in the new burger mix combining meat and mushrooms called “Blend Burgers.”
The new burger is part of the eat brighter! marketing campaign, designed to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables. Sodexo has announced that it will be introducing the burger into 250 K-12 school district accounts nationwide.
Kathleen Preis, who leads the school nutrition department at the Mushroom Council, says that the combination of mushrooms and beef is already a familiar one, and for good reason: mushrooms enhance the natural umami flavor of beef. Tests have shown that 85 percent of students preferred the flavor of the blended burgers over plain beef burgers.
While, as the name of the burger suggests, the mushrooms will be blended into the burgers, their presence will not be a secret, according to Preis. “We are super proud of the mushroom Blend Burger, and we would love for people to know they are eating mushrooms,” she told Food Navigator. She is hoping, specifically, that once children realize that they like mushrooms, more parents will begin preparing them at home as well.
The eat brighter! program, which first became available for industry use in March 2014, was developed by the Produce Marketing Association and Sesame Workshop, using popular Sesame Street characters to popularize the new choices with posters and other décor specifically created for the school cafeteria. The association of the characters and the campaign is meant to draw parallels between the brightly colored characters and “healthy, brilliant, and alive,” fresh produce, according to the campaign.
“Our goal is to give the produce industry a unified movement – helping to rise above the advertising noise with a strong voice and one clear message that aims to increase consumption of fresh produce,” the campaign writes.
The continued development of healthy school lunches is exceedingly important, particularly given the recent announcement by Congress to scale back the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2012.
For many children, healthy school lunches are their only reliably nutritious meal. Fifty-one percent of U.S. public school students received free or reduced-cost meals due to their low-income status in 2013, marking the first time in history that a majority of public school students qualified for the meals.
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School lunch image via Shutterstock