Tangerines are one of the only fruits that automatically come in “kid’s size.” Don’t let its miniature stature fool you; tangerines are loaded with flavor and beneficial vitamins and nutrients. Additionally, they’re one of the best as-is fruits to serve kids due to their dependable portability. We’d recommend using tangerines as an introduction to seasonal produce, as the later part of their season perfectly lines up with the back half of the school year.
- Seasonality: October-January
- Best For: Serving as is, desserts
- Try Cooking: Tangerine yogurt popsicles
Essentially a sweeter, more complex carrot, parsnips are tailor-made for the budding foodie, but are unfortunately not often included on school menus. Chefs looking to buck tradition will be happy to know that the starchiness of parsnips make them well suited to be a nutritious substitute in a variety of traditionally “unhealthy” dishes. Still not convinced? Check out some of our favorite parsnip dishes for kids.
- Seasonality: September-April
- Best For: Substituting into starchy dishes
- Try Cooking: Parsnip fries, parsnip “pancakes”
We’re sure that you’re well aware of avocado’s versatility and power over salad bars, but did you know that the hippest fruit of them all actually can help your students learn better? Although avocados are generally more expensive than other items on this list, their nutritional value and rich, creamy flavor make them more than worth the money if it’s within your budget.
- Seasonality: August-October, February-April
- Pro Tip: If you wait until February to include them on your menu you’ll be met with better fruit and lower prices.
- Best For: Topping a variety of dishes, salad bars
- Try Cooking: Guacamole, avocado wraps
Once you get beyond the “spinach” name, the dependable winter green can actually be used in a ton of kid friendly dishes. Equally delicious whether thrown in a stir-fry or served as the base of a light salad, spinach can easily slide into a ton of dishes on your menu. However, if you’re having a hard time getting your students to love greens, a build your own salad bar starring spinach can be a great entry point into the world of winter greens, plus it allows you the opportunity to serve more exotic vegetables!
- Seasonality: Available year round (peaks during spring and fall)
- Best For: Serving as a salad base, lightening up cooked dishes
- Try Cooking: Strawberry spinach salad, spinach pesto pasta
Pears are so perfectly suited to K-12 lunches that we wrote a whole article about it. The juicy, dependable fruit is an easy sell to kids of all ages and is still in its peak season during the back half of the school year. On top of that, different varieties of pears allow you to experiment with your recipes, simultaneously keeping it fresh in the kitchen and the cafeteria.
- Seasonality: September-May
- Best For: Lunches and baked goods
- Try Cooking: Peanut butter and pear sandwiches, pear donuts
Celery may be one of the best vessels in the vegetable world. Its crisp crunchiness and light flavor allow for a solid amount of flavor pairings, plus its curved shape is directly responsible for the kid approved “ants on a log” dish. Once your take celery’s low cost and staggering health benefits into account, it’s clear why celery has never gone out of style.
- Seasonality: Year Round (peaks from April-December)
- Best For: Healthy snacks, adding to salads
- Try Cooking: Ants on a log, apple and celery salad