K-12 chefs extend rice’s reach in schools 

Betsy Ward
By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
USA Rice

The U.S. rice industry has always had a close connection to this nation’s school nutrition programs. As a staple grain that is affordable, nutritious, easy to prepare in large quantities, and (most importantly) appealing to kids, rice and school foodservice go hand in hand. This is an especially important partnership these days considering grocery inflation, labor shortages, and other issues that put strain on school budgets.

To strengthen this vital market for U.S.-grown rice and ensure the wellbeing of our children, I’m excited to announce that USA Rice has formed the K-12 Chef Advisory Board.

The K-12 Chef Advisory Board is a four-person team of professionals from school districts across the country. With their expertise in children’s nutrition and practical knowledge of school nutrition programs, the Board will provide insight, leverage relationships, and create new tools that will extend the rice industry’s reach into school kitchens across the country.

This Board is the culmination of a series of initiatives we have made in the school nutrition space in recent years. The K-12 Rice to the Rescue program, launched in late 2021, provided support and resources to schools while working to elevate the role of rice in their operations. This included a video series on rice’s versatility, recipe development, direct engagement with school officials, and donation support to school districts during a time when schools were facing many challenges due to COVID-19. We also hosted accredited training webinars on the importance of using and sourcing U.S.-grown rice in school foodservice operations, where professionals could educate themselves on the benefits of including U.S.-grown rice in their programs while earning Continuing Education Credits. We also revamped the Schools Think Rice newsletter last year. The new streamlined, mobile-friendly design featuring strong calls to action resulted in increased engagement among readers, and provides an effective way to reach school foodservice audiences directly and effectively.

Through developing healthy, delicious, and practical recipes that kids will love, helping school districts source and integrate U.S. rice into their nutrition programs, and positioning rice as a solution that addresses some of the challenges school operators face, USA Rice provides support and guidance to our nation’s schools and children. This is just the beginning; as more districts focus on menus that are healthy yet practical, the K-12 Chef Advisory Board will be key in facilitating these future opportunities by developing relationships and providing expertise.

It’s an easy decision on our end to invest in school foodservice. U.S.-grown rice belongs in schools, because keeping our children fed, happy, and healthy will always be the top priority.

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