Pierre Foods, Inc. today officially unveiled Smart Picks ™—its new line of more nutritious school menu options—at the School Nutrition Association's Annual National Conference, giving students across the nation a reason to look forward to cafeteria lunches this coming fall. While other food manufacturers have committed to offering students more nutritious meal options in the coming two to five years, Smart Picks will be ready to serve in cafeterias when school begins next month.
Pierre Foods' Smart Picks line will allow students to choose from more than 60 different nutritional menu choices, including all-beef hamburger patties, which have 37 percent less sodium than current patties; grilled chicken patties, which contain less than 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance of sodium; and macaroni and cheese, which is made with whole grain pasta and is an excellent source of protein.
"In an effort to fight the child obesity crisis, First Lady Michelle Obama, school foodservice directors, parents and students nationwide have called on school food manufacturers to create new products with reduced sodium and excellent sources of protein, but that students will still choose and enjoy," said Bill Toler, CEO of Pierre Foods, Inc. "Pierre Foods is proud to be among the first to answer that call by launching our Smart Picks line."
Pierre Foods' Smart Picks line includes a variety of items that have one or more of the following attributes: zero grams of trans fat, reduced sodium, reduced fat, a good source of protein, no hydrogenated oils, made with whole grains and a good source of fiber.
In order to find the balance between the tastes that kids love and the nutritional values that they need, Pierre Foods spent more than a year creating Smart Picks' recipes. Nearly 2,000 students recently taste-tested products from Pierre's Smart Picks line and liked these items as well as or better than similar Pierre school menu items.
"As a school chef, I've seen first hand that food can't just have lower fat, reduced sodium, or whole grains," said Chef Jimmy Gherardi, chief culinary advisor at Pierre Foods and chef at Seven Hills School in Cincinnati. "Food has to taste and look good—or the kids won't eat it. This is why I really appreciate the time Pierre Foods took to taste-test the Smart Picks products with more than 2,000 kids. Now, they not only have a product line that contributes to that healthier lifestyle for kids, but also one that has products kids will actually eat."
And not only is Pierre dedicated to the quality and taste of the product, but it is committed to working with schools' limited budgets. To that end, the new Smart Picks items are comparatively priced to its classic school product counterparts.
In conjunction with the launch of the Smart Picks line and as a further sign of its commitment to student nutrition, Pierre also announced the reinstatement of its Nutrition Advisory Council that will provide expert advice on how to continue to promote better eating in America's schools and develop products that kids will love. The Council's 12 members represent a broad cross-section of school foodservice directors from a variety of schools sizes and locations.
"For more than 30 years, Pierre Foods has been creating school menu options that contribute to a healthy lifestyle," said Toler. "As a company that serves 90 of the nation's 100 largest school districts, we recognize the importance of creating nutritious products as well as a support system to promote better eating. The creation of the Smart Picks line and the development of our Nutrition Advisory Council are just the next step in Pierre's continued commitment to supporting 'smarter' eating in America's schools."