New year brings new lunch surprises

Black-eyed pea dip, Kansas City BBQ, and leafy greens and herbs grown in Notre Dame's new greenhouse highlight the beginning of the new year for school's food-service program.

The School Nutrition Association (SNA), a nonprofit professional organization that monitors the school foodservice industry to remain abreast of the trends, issues and factors impacting its members, released a report in 2017 called "The School Nutrition Trends Report," which cited some recent trends and innovative changes to school-lunch programs across the country. Those changes included: 
– Increasing the amount of scratch cooking, 
– Increasing fruit and vegetable options,
– Expanding breakfast venues,
– Increasing grab-and-go options for lunch,
– Student engagement initiatives, and
– Expanding local purchasing or farm to school programs.

Many respondents to a survey connected to the report shared innovative changes relating to customization, new menu items and approaches to meet sodium and whole grain rich requirements.

For Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, which signed an agreement in 2016 with Flik Independent School Dining to be the school’s dining and food service provider, most of those recent trends have become de rigueur in the school's lunch program for all three divisions. 

In fact, according to James Davis, who is Notre Dame's head chef and manager of Flik's operation at the school, his team of food and nutrition experts is dedicated entirely to creating fun, healthful and innovative dining solutions for the Notre Dame community. 

And true to form, says Davis, the new year is bringing some new offerings to NDPMA's lunch program. 

"This month I am introducing a few new smoked items that we have never done before here," he said. "Smoked beef brisket and smoked pulled BBQ pork will be available to students and the flavors come directly from the capital of BBQ, Kansas City, Missouri."

He also said that the school's monthly food focus item for January is black eyed pea dip, which actually was introduced today in the cafeteria. 

"And Monday we will be making a grapefruit olive salad for the kids," he said. "Plus, throughout the month, we'll also be offering special Flik-prepared sliders that include Cajun chicken sliders, veggie sliders and our classic beef sliders."

Davis was especially excited about this month's "super food tasting": leafy greens. That's because he's located a local — very local — source for his leafy greens.

"I am going to start utilizing the new Notre Dame greenhouse for some lettuce and fresh herbs in some of our food offerings," said Davis, who also noted that the students have not been shy about partaking in many of these newer, non-traditional school lunch food servings. But, he said, many of the most popular hot entrées for NDPMA students are from the "old-fashioned" tried and true school lunch menu, albeit prepared in more healthful ways.

"The five most popular hot entrées for Notre Dame's middle- and upper-division students," Davis said, "are chicken quesadilla, chicken tender wrap, BBQ pulled pork on a bun, panko-breaded tenders, and tacos on Taco Day, either on soft or hard shells or on tortilla chips."

He added that the lower division students like to keep it simple. "They are always showing the love for walking tacos and pizza."

Davis also said plans are in the works for a walk-in cooler in the school's kitchen area, which he says will be very good to have.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at