Tips for Making USDA Foods Allocations for School Year 2021-2022
Written by Malissa Marsden, Mushrooms in Schools Consultant
In this crazy year of 2020, it’s even crazier that we need to stop and think about what we are going to serve in SY 2021-22! Yes, it is time to plan how you will use your PAL: Planned Assistance Level.
In addition to the ongoing pandemic, many of you have also been impacted by Mother Nature recently, from hurricanes to wildfires to tornadoes. Amazingly (but not surprisingly!), you always come through for the kids. Congratulations on dealing with so many obstacles and challenges this year – including adding new programs, applying for waivers, and adapting your serving models. We truly applaud all you do.
As you look towards placing your USDA Foods orders, please remember to include some Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable (DoD) dollars in addition to your Direct Deliveries and Direct Diversions. DoD continues to grow each year, providing fresh, US-grown produce for your programs. Many value added items can be found among their offerings, including sliced mushrooms, as well as whole (usually white, but browns may be available from some suppliers).
Sales of Mushrooms Are Growing
Did You Know? An analysis of retail data through September 6th shows that mushroom sales are more than 20% ahead of last year in dollars, and 17% ahead in pounds. The retail insights also show that mushrooms have placed in the top 10 of fruits and vegetables with the highest year-over-year absolute dollar gains for 26 straight weeks.
What does that mean for you? During this pandemic, as people cooked more at home, they cooked fresh mushrooms! Yes, many of your students are already enjoying fresh mushrooms in many of their meals. This retail study identified the top reasons mushrooms are being consumed with such consumer growth.
- Mushrooms add a lot of flavor to a meal or recipe
- Mushrooms are a versatile food that can be used in many ways
- Consuming fresh mushrooms contributes to your nutrition and health
- Mushrooms are a moderately priced produce item
- Mushrooms are a highly environmentally sustainable crop to produce
Mushrooms: Perfect for School Meals
These are the very same reasons to consider adding fresh mushrooms to your school meals! We have a variety of resources to help you do just that, from training your kitchen teams on mushroom handling and preparation (and learning all about mushrooms and menu planning too!), a treasure trove of delicious school foodservice recipes highlighting mushrooms, new marketing and education materials, as well as great F2S support materials.
Allocate DoD Dollars for Fresh Mushrooms
We encourage you to set aside DoD dollars for purchasing fresh mushrooms next year (and remember – unlike most fresh produce items, mushrooms are available year-round and often locally grown, perfect for predictable cycle menu planning!).
Thanks for visiting Mushrooms In Schools, and if you have any questions or need assistance in planning your DoD allocations for fresh mushroom purchases, contact us! And we’re always excited to see how you’re including fresh mushrooms in your meals – please share your #RealSchoolFood success stories with us on Facebook and Twitter.