When the Wayzata (Minn.) School District went looking for additional ways to innovate its cafeteria menu with healthy meal options that would keep students happy, Kim Harren had an idea.
“Kids like pizza and kids like tacos. So why not mix the two?” said Harren, assistant supervisor for Culinary Express, the self-branded foodservice department of Wayzata Public Schools. That’s when Wayzata’s partnership with Rich’s, the leading national supplier of frozen pizza doughs and crusts, came into play.
Already a valued Rich’s customer, the school district soon found itself making Harren’s brainstorm a reality. They used the 12”X15” Fresh ‘N Ready® Oven Rising Sheeted Pizza Dough – the most-successful product in Rich’s pizza dough lineup – as the basis for a new taco pizza. Unlike other freezer-to-oven products that are pre-proofed or chemically leavened, Rich’s Fresh ‘N Ready is a unique pizza dough that rises and develops its characteristics while it bakes. The pre-cut, sheeted dough is designed to develop an airy texture, artisan flavor and perfect chew in the operators oven. Because it is a raw dough, Fresh ‘N Ready delivers the eating qualities of a fresh-dough pizza with no traditional handling required.
“The dough goes right from the freezer to the toppings stage and then into the oven, resulting in a pizzeria-style end product that kids love,” said Karen Hoben, K-12 sales manager for Rich’s Midwest Region. The Wayzata School District also makes vegetable toppings like lettuce and tomato available, so kids can personalize their taco pizzas.
The new pizza entree helps Wayzata meet one of the growing priorities of school district foodservice operations nationwide: “menu items that contain healthier options, with ‘back to scratch’ and speed-scratch cooking and baking,” Hoben explained.
“School foodservice customers are looking for more options to satisfy children, parents, school districts and nutritional regulations – all while providing value,” said Matthew Wilson, Rich’s senior manager for schools. “Creating fresh-baked pizza using Rich’s pizza crust provides better dietary choices and saves money.”
Rich’s has numerous resources that can help school districts like Wayzata transform their menus. “From product handling guides and troubleshooting, to recipes for breakfast and dessert pizzas, we want to show them how easy this is, said Jennifer Besing, Rich’s Foodservice marketing manager for the K-12 segment.
Of course, all these efforts would be for naught if kids’ sophisticated taste buds remained unimpressed. But that was not the case with the taco pizza introduction: Wayzata students raved about the flavor. Even better, Wayzata’s culinary team discovered that the simplest ingredients and preparation can be the most successful.
“It’s been fun for us to see the kids move beyond just cheese and pepperoni to the taco pizza,” said Mary Anderson, Wayzata’s Culinary Express supervisor. “The extra time staff takes to create the in-house product is easily offset by the students’ enthusiastic reaction.”