40+ School Recipes: Standardized, Trendy and Commodity-Based

Feb 27, 2024
Bagel with berry schmear

Are you hearing student complaints similar to, “not this again” or “I don’t like this” as they roll their eyes in the lunch line? Is your average daily participation on the decline? Dairy MAX, your regional dairy council's school wellness team, is here to help. We've collaborated with To Taste, the expert chef/dietitian team, to craft K-12 specialty recipes with student preferences, food trends, federal meal regulations and the deliciousness of dairy in mind. Commodity foods as ingredients were also a priority; with rising food costs, child nutrition directors are having to stretch every dollar. Wisely using your commodity foods entitlement can help reduce meal costs and your stress level!

Understanding Commodity Foods

Commodity foods are a vast and sometimes complicated topic that has been around for almost a century. The Needy Family Program was the first food distribution program started during the Great Depression, followed by the Food Stamp program in 1970. Today, there are 16 different food distribution and commodity programs administered through Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which is an arm of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). For schools across the nation, the USDA purchases 2 billion pounds of food annually from U.S. farmers to use as commodity foods. Check out the USDA's list of available foods for the 2023-2024 school year here.

Featured School Recipes

As we get deeper into the new year, commodity food planning rises on your to-do list. Armed with your menu planner, the USDA commodity food list, and the new Dairy MAX recipes, you can become a menu planning hero!

For an affordable breakfast option, try the Strawberry Sheet Pan Pancakes With Yogurt Dip, incorporating commodity foods like sliced frozen strawberries, liquid eggs and peanut butter. Watch as students dub it the "PB&J" of breakfast.

Strawberry sheet pan pancakes with yogurt dip

Upscale your boring bagel and cream cheese by adding the Cinnamon Sugar Bagel With Greek Yogurt Berry Schmear to your breakfast menu. I’m sure you’re asking, “what’s a schmear?” This fancy spread is not only an unusual word but also provides added protein from the Greek yogurt that will keep students feeling fuller longer between meals. This recipe uses frozen blueberries and high-protein vanilla yogurt commodity foods.


As Gen Z and Alpha have the most diverse palates of any generation, consider highlighting the Chicken Tikka Masala with rice as a new entrée for lunch. This recipe utilizes processed commodity foods including diced chicken, tomato paste and diced tomatoes.


Or add the Beef and Lentil Taco With Cilantro Yogurt Sauce, which uses ground beef, whole grain tortillas, shredded cheese and salsa commodity foods. The students won’t even notice the lentils but will reap the health benefits of this powerful antioxidant.

Beef and lentil taco with cilantro yogurt sauce

Next Steps for Child Nutrition

In the ever-evolving world of school nutrition, staying ahead of the curve is essential to keeping our students engaged and satisfied. By creatively leveraging commodity food program offerings, we can make cost-effective, nutritious and enticing meals a reality. Let's embark on this exciting culinary adventure together, ensuring that our students say, "This again? I love this!" as they savor every bite of their nourishing, dairy-rich meals. Together, we want to help you meet your goals and increase student satisfaction, one recipe at a time.

Next, browse our other free recipes, bring up questions with your local School Wellness Consultant, or join our email list to get more school nutrition content in your inbox.

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