- Associated Press - Saturday, July 15, 2017

ATLANTA (AP) - The future of school lunches - and snacks, brunches and other forms of meals - were on display recently at the School Nutrition Association’s annual conference in Atlanta.

More than 900 vendors showcased the latest in school food trends, WABE Radio reports.

They included all sorts of food options, including international, gluten-free and vegetarian fare.

Companies also brought equipment to sell, from slicers and dicers to high-tech freezers.

School nutrition directors at the conference said there’s been a shift in school diets in recent years. Children want more options, and they’re selective about what they eat.

“They’re used to what’s happening in those kiosks in the malls or the restaurants,” says Gay Anderson, the association’s vice president and school nutrition director for the Brandon Valley School District outside Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“We’re looking at what’s the latest and greatest happening there,” he said. “So, literally, whatever’s happening in that kind of culture, we try to bring it back to our school nutrition culture.”

Lynette Dodson is the school nutrition director for the Carrollton City Schools in west Georgia. Every month, she meets with the high school student council to hear what kinds of food kids want.

“For instance, we started a brunch bar because they told us they wanted to see breakfast at lunch,” Dodson said. “It really makes a difference when the students are part of the process, and they feel like they’re empowered and they’re more vested.”

Less food ends up in the trash can that way, too, Dodson added.

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