Economic & inspiring lunch ideas for teenages

Joined Feb 5, 2016
I have volunteered to support my local school's cafeteria.  I have some knowledge of healthy, nutritious meals but am looking for ideas that may be new and fresh for this coming academic year's lunch menu.  The school competes very heavily with Subway, Tim Hortons, a fish n chip shop and a take out pizza house.  We are serving ages 14-18, some of which appear to have lots of $s and some who clearly have very little to spend on food.  If you have a teenager and know their favourite meal, or are currently serving the same demongraphic and are prepared to share your thoughts/ideas please do so.  We are focusing on 'home cooked meal' styles as much as we can, preparing from scratch whenever possible. Thanks in advance :)
Joined Oct 31, 2012
Quesadillas are always popular and can be made with a variety of ingredients.  Burritos too.  Keep fresh fruit on hand, peeled when possible. 

Set up a sandwich line to order like Subway one day. Or have simple sandwiches pre made with a large selection of toppings. 

Pizza seems like an easy way to compete. Use fresh veggies for toppings. 
Joined Dec 18, 2010
Macaroni and cheese.

Grilled cheese.



All of the above can be made in great variety. Kids will need very mild salsa, if any at all, on the Mex food.
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Joined Dec 18, 2010
Chile fries.

Loaded fries.

Carne asada fries.

Carne asada nachos.

I know, not really nutritious but kids love this stuff.
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Joined Jul 24, 2014
Street food around the world is usually tasty and can be made rather healthily:

Fried noodles (China, India)

Falafel in pita (Egypt)

Joined Sep 5, 2012
How many kids do you serve? In what kind of of time frame do you serve them? What is a per portion budget? What equipment do you have at your disposal? What kind of skills does the kitchen staff have?

One part of my business is I serve over 1100 students and teachers from 50 plus cultural backgrounds and national origin, prepared from scratch, with some specifics I can probably give you some advice.
Joined Feb 5, 2016
thank you all.  Lagom, I will be serving 1200 kids potentially with 100 teachers.  We are based in a fully commercial kitchen with all equipment (cannot use the deep fat friers though).  There will only be me full time and one part timer - both with culinary skills and experience.  Not sure on the budget as yet but they want to sell combos for $5 ..... any advice you have or sharing of ideas would be absolutely wonderful -- my email is [email protected] --- thanks SO MUCH :)
Joined Jun 27, 2012
You mentioned volunteer so are doing this for the love of it (as in for free?)...... or will this be a contract gig?
Either way if you are being paid or not you are gonna need more hands on deck for this, esp if you are making every component from scratch.
At the very minimum a prep cook and a dishwasher who can be trained to support the prep line.
Is the kitchen on campus or will you need to deliver and/or serve ?

OBTW.... congrats on the gig.
Will be hard work but oh so worth it once you get all your ducks in a row and become uber streamlined.
I am seeing some very nice summer vacations in your future lol.

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Joined Feb 5, 2016
thanks flipflpgirl :)  I am excited.  The school have since called and asked me to take the contract (rather than volunteer) so I have agreed to do that!!! Excited and happy to have received so many ideas/suggestions for the menu ...
Joined Aug 6, 2015
Don't know if this falls under your jurisdiction of the lunch offerings, but thinking back to something I would have liked to see - the fresh fruit available was either underripe bananas, or like the type of dark red apple that is overly dry and didn't taste all that good. Wondering if more solid fresh fruit options are a possibility.

Huge congratulations on getting a contract for this!
Joined Feb 5, 2016
foody518, thanks for that!  I love fresh fruit that you can eat straight away and will only serve that!  I won't serve anything that I am not going to enjoy !  We are so lucky to be in the Apple growing area so will be able to have a huge bowl of freshly picked apples!  Other fruits that the kids enjoy will also be available (I am planning on asking them what they want).  I am excited for this gig, it's going to be a challenge but very rewarding :)
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