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What Is Scratch Cooking?

Scratch cooking is real food with real ingredients.

There are many definitions of scratch cooking (and types of school meals in general!), but for us, scratch cooking means school districts cooking their own meals and incorporating whole, fresh ingredients, rather than pre-assembled or processed meals and meal components. Scratch cooking prioritizes the incorporation of raw proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables that can create nutritious and delicious meals.

What Is Scratch Cooking?

Scratch cooking is real food with real ingredients.

There are many definitions of scratch cooking (and types of school meals in general!), but for us, scratch cooking means school districts cooking their own meals and incorporating whole, fresh ingredients, rather than pre-assembled or processed meals and meal components. Scratch cooking prioritizes the incorporation of raw proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables that can create nutritious and delicious meals.

Transitioning to a scratch cook operation can help schools see improvement in five key areas. The below sections describe the positive impact scratch cooking can have on school meal participation, student health and wellness, academic performance, developing financially sustainable meal programs, and supporting the local economy and reducing environmental impact.


Benefits of Scratch-Cooking


Want to print this list?

To download this full list of benefits & sources, click here!

Ready to get started with scratch-cooking?

Here are some recommended places to start:

  • For more information on our grant programs, including salad bars, visit our Apply for a Grant page.
  • For help with scratch cooked recipes, visit our School Recipes section to view over 300 recipes that are delicious, follow USDA requirements and include cost and nutrition analysis.
  • For support developing your program’s vision, planning your menu, how to best use your commodity dollars and incorporating local products, visit the Procurement section of our website.
  • For resources on fiscal management and staffing, visit the Management section.
  • Visit the Marketing and Lunchroom Education section to get ideas about marketing your efforts to the larger school community and ways to engage students in your program.

Ready to get started with scratch-cooking?

Here are some recommended places to start:

  • For more information on our grant programs, including salad bars, visit our Apply for a Grant page.
  • For help with scratch cooked recipes, visit our School Recipes section to view over 300 recipes that are delicious, follow USDA requirements and include cost and nutrition analysis.
  • For support developing your program’s vision, planning your menu, how to best use your commodity dollars and incorporating local products, visit the Procurement section of our website.
  • For resources on fiscal management and staffing, visit the Management section.
  • Visit the Marketing and Lunchroom Education section to get ideas about marketing your efforts to the larger school community and ways to engage students in your program.

Recommended Next Topic: School Recipes

Recipes are the heart of school food change. These recipes have been developed by school food professionals, kid-tested, and perfected in school kitchens.

Recommended Next Topic: School Recipes

Recipes are the heart of school food change. These recipes have been developed by school food professionals, kid-tested, and perfected in school kitchens.

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