Montana Schools are Mooving Forward with Beef + Mushrooms


The Montana Beef to School Project conducted a comprehensive case study with schools, producers, and processors across Montana to identify the benefits, challenges, best practices, and gaps that exist for beef to school procurement models in Montana.

  • The Montana Beef to School Project aims to explore what factors make beef to school programs successful and encourage the use of local beef in every Montana school.
  • Discover the creative ways that schools are working with producers and processors in Montana to procure local Montana beef.
  • Bring tested beef to school strategies to Montana communities through lessons learned from case studies across six beef1.

Utilizing The Blend in Schools

Three schools in Flathead Valley; Somers Lakeside Schools (District 29); Whitefish School (District 44); and Kalispell Public Schools (District 5) were open to a pilot project with the mushroom blend. Other objectives included:

  • Provide USDA IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) mushrooms to schools
  • Develop recipes specifically for locally raised (often grass-fed) Montana beef
  • Provide technical assistance using blend of local beef + mushrooms

Featured Recipes


Beef and Mushroom Burgers: Whitefish Public School – Recipe can be found on page 25 of the Case Study.


Italian Meat and Mushroom Meatballs: Somers Lakeside Schools – Recipe can be found on page 22 of the Case Study.

Adding mushrooms to beef provides an additional serving of vegetables to a meal.
Extending meat dishes with mushrooms is a cost saver, too. In taste tests, our students found the beef-mushrooms blends to be very appealing, juicy, savory, and palatable. When we served blended products, our participation numbers increased.
– Robin Vogler, Director, Somers Lakeside Schools

What’s Next

  • Introduce local beef + mushroom blend recipes to a state-wide audience at Montana School Nutrition Association
  • Support Mission Mountain Food Enterprises Center’s work to develop meatball (Montana beef and lentils + mushrooms) for school channels
  • Provide technical assistance for distribution of USDA IQF mushrooms through state child nutrition channels
  • Expand use of local beef + mushroom blend to other foodservice channels of Montana including higher education

Find out how each district utilized The Blend, as well as key findings in the detailed case history.

1.  University of Montana, Moooooving Forward Together, Strategies for Montana Beef to School, to School Project Case Study Report.pdf

Excite Students with a Blended Burger Bash!


Winter semester often feels like it goes on forever. Creating small celebrations with food can help motivate excitement and participation with students through the long winter months. Burger Bars can channel summer grilling memories and create a festive atmosphere for students. Pairing new fruits and vegetables in a fun burger concept can encourage students to experience new ingredients while enjoying one of their favorite foods!

Since Blend Burgers have less calories, fat and sodium than regular burgers they allow for more topping flexibility for student’s favorite toppings like cheese and turkey bacon!

Here are some of our favorite burger builds for your next burger bash!

  • Pizza Burger: Pizza sauce & melted mozzarella cheese
  • Philly Burger: IQF Diced mushrooms, onions, peppers & provolone cheese
  • California Burger: guacamole or avocado and salsa
  • Diner Burger: Lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and American cheese
  • Classic Jr Burger: American cheese and turkey bacon
  • Hawaiian Burger: Pineapple spirals & BBQ sauce
  • Gyro Burger: Plain Greek Yogurt mixed with dried dill, diced cucumbers and diced onions
  • Sweet & Spicy Burger: Siracha sauce and soy sauce slaw
  • Hot & Hotter Burger: Jalapeños and Siracha sauce


Blended Burger Bashes in Restaurants Across the Country

School Districts are not the only ones featuring Blended Burgers on their menus. Check out what top chefs are doing with the Mushroom & Meat Blend on their menus:


Chef Jehagir Mehta’s “Graffiti Burger,” Graffiti, New York, NY


Chef Rob Ray’s “Mushroom State of Mind Burger,” Belly Acres, Memphis, TN


Chef Domenica Catelli’s “Burger 2.0,” Catellis, Sonoma, CA


Chef Lorin Watada’s “Tikka Masala Burger,” Bachi Burger, Las Vegas, CA

Blended Burgers in the News

Mushroom Council Partners with Sodexo to Promote Blend Burgers and Encourage Produce Consumption

Sodexo, a leader in delivering sustainable, integrated facilities management and foodservice operations, announced they will be switching the all-beef burgers sold to their K-12 school district accounts to the meat and mushroom Blend burger. This change supports better nutrition for students in more than 250 school districts and aligns with Sodexo’s commitment to enhance student well-being.

Lisa Feldman, director of culinary services for Sodexo Culinary Solutions, commented, “Recent studies tell us that kids are taking more fresh fruits and vegetable at school meals, but not necessarily eating them. In addition to our work incorporating behavioral economics principles into our school nutrition programs to encourage students to both take and consume more fruits and vegetables, Sodexo is also looking at ways to add produce to other things we serve like adding natural and nutrient-packed mushrooms to burgers.”

Learn more about Sodexo’s move to Blend Burgers here >>

In the Kitchen with Mushrooms


Beef & Mushroom Burger

Yield: 100 servings, 74.4 grams
Serving Size: 1 Burger equals 2.62 Ounces
Meal Equivalencies: 1.5 m/ma, 1/8 cup other vegetable

Find the full recipe here >>

Don’t Forget to Add Mushrooms to your Foods Available List!


Remember to add USDA IQF Mushrooms (Material Code #110421) to your Foods Available list for your districts to order.

USDA IQF Diced Mushrooms can be used in menus to:

  • Top pizzas, sandwiches and burgers
  • Blend with pastas, sloppy joes and tacos to increase portion size
  • Divert to your processor for juicy burgers and meatballs
  • Increase flexibility in meeting guidelines while adding toppings students love
  • Increase consumption of vegetables by combining with popular consumed entrées


See here why schools already love the mushrooms!

Carmen Fischer

Carmen Fischer

Director of Child Nutrition Services & Warehouse / Rockwood School District

“We were excited to see mushrooms on our Missouri commodity open order list. It's always fun to experiment with new vegetables and to educate kids about them. We introduced the mushrooms in a Taste Test Tuesday recipe for marinated vegetables and are working on an egg Florentine soufflé using USDA eggs, mushrooms, spinach and cheese. We are looking forward to incorporating mushrooms into more recipes that our students enjoy.”

Eric Zacarias

Eric Zacarias

Manager of Marketing & Innovation / Cincinnati Public Schools

“Serving the Blend burger helps us keep our high school participation above 76%. The burger blended with mushrooms is a juicier, bigger patty with less fat and calories so we are able to add two slices of turkey bacon and cheese to the burger. The kids come in week after week because they know the Blend burger is on the menu that day. It was so popular we will be adding Blended meatballs to the menu to as well.”

Vegetarian Success Tips & Stories, PLUS suggestions from Dayle Hayes, School Nutrition Guru


2 out of 3 U.S. schools now offer vegetarian fare for lunch on a regular basis.

Meatless offerings for students are moving toward dishes that will also appeal to non-vegetarians based on taste alone. Recipe such as, Mexican-themed vegetable burritos, vegetable-topped pizza, vegetable pastas, egg salad or pimento cheese sandwiches are a great way to appeal to all students.

Coming up with meatless options that are tasty can be the easy part; it’s meeting the meal requirements that can be tricky. Vegetarian diets are often high in fiber and low in fat. This may cause children to feel full before they consume enough calories1. Adding nutrient-rich low calorie mushrooms to the menu creates the opportunity to add calorie dense foods, such as avocados and nut butters, to ensure proper calorie intake.

Mushrooms in a Vegetarian Diet

Just like meat mushrooms are savory making them a favourite ingredient in vegetarian recipes. Mushrooms naturally contain umami — the savory taste found in food. The meaty, savory flavor that mushrooms provide has been found to be a healthy and satisfying substitute for salt.

Nutritional benefits of mushrooms:

  • Only produce source of vitamin D.
  • Contains 9% of the daily recommended intake of potassium per 5 medium mushrooms.
  • The vitamin B-12 found naturally in mushrooms is the same form found in meat.
  • Mushrooms contain antioxidants (selenium and ergothioneine), which offer protection from cancer and heart disease, and moderate blood sugar levels2.

Dayle Hayes Tips

Adding Mushrooms to Vegetarian Meals

Want to make vegetarian choices so tasty that all your customers will want to eat them? My advice is to add some mushrooms! With their meaty texture, savory flavor and umami deliciousness, mushrooms are a perfect way to boost the popularity of any vegetarian menu option!

Lacto-ovo vegetarians (includes dairy products and eggs. Excludes meat, poultry, and fish) can enjoy the pairing of mushrooms and cheese – with twice the umami!

  • philly-portabella-cheesesteakPizza is always popular with students. Adding mushrooms can be as simple as Fresh Sliced Mushroom and Cheese – or with some chopped fresh tomatoes and basil, a marvellous Margherita and Mushroom Pizza.
  • Mushrooms also pair nicely with all other pizza produce options, like olives, onions, peppers and even pineapple – and are as great on flatbread as on a pizza crust. The Vegetable Flatbread, from California Olives, is a colorful and delicious example.
  • With mushrooms and the right recipe, your customers won’t even notice that the meat is missing. Portabella Mushrooms on a whole grain roll make a tempting vegetarian Philly ‘Steak’ Sub and fresh sliced mushrooms combine with a variety of IQF USDA vegetables to make a hearty Garden Fresh Vegetable Lasagna.

Mushrooms are even more important in stricter vegan options with more limited ingredients.

  • vegetarian-chiliHearty Vegetarian Chili is a deliciously simple dish – perfect for winter menus.
  • Chopped mushrooms add an extra layer of flavor to ethnically inspired vegan dishes, like East Indian curries or vegetable fajitas, while slices of portabellas are lovely on veggie or bean burgers.


1. Vegetarian Nutrition for School-Aged Children, RD Resources are a project of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group. © 2010 by VN DPG. Christine Creighton, MS, RD
2. Nutrition-wise blog: Mushrooms aren’t just for vegetarians, Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. August 22.

Harvest of the Month Q&A with Kathryn Spencer, Farm to School Coordinator at San Diego Unified School District


The San Diego Unified School District is home to 238 schools, from Pre-K to High school, and is the second largest school district in California. Their foodservice program provides more than 135,000 meals and snacks per day to students and staff throughout the district, and employs more than 1,400 team members.

Q: How many schools and students participated in the mushroom Harvest of the Month?

A: 190 schools across the San Diego School District participated in the Mushroom Harvest of the Month during April. Over 130,000 students had the opportunity to try mushrooms from the salad bar.

Q: Were any recipes with mushrooms featured using mushrooms other than the salad bar?

A: We served the sliced crimini mushroom as part of the salad bar. But we also tested a Mushroom Swiss Burger in one of our test kitchens.

San-diego-youtube-videoQ: Did you host a meet the farmer event?

A: We were not able to host an in-person “meet the farmer” event, instead we create a monthly Harvest of the Month video that takes students on a “virtual farm field trip.” This video allows students to see the farm and hear about how the mushrooms are grown from a farmer. Watch the video here.

Q: What did students think of the mushrooms?

A: We were surprised by how many students were open to trying them, many really liked the sliced criminis. Our Harvest of the Month program is all about introducing new locally grown items to our students, so mushrooms were a perfect fit.

Q: Was there an educational introduction or sampling to students to encourage trying the mushrooms?

A: We sent the video link out to schools encouraging teachers to watch it with their students. This helped prepare students to sample the mushrooms on their salad bar. We find this method works best so each of our schools can participate in learning about a locally grown item and try it in the lunchroom. We also hosted a sampling session outside the lunchroom, but during the lunch period to encourage students to try the mushrooms.


Q: Why it is important for students to try new, local produce for harvest of the month and why were mushrooms chosen?

A: Our Harvest of the Month program is all about introducing new locally grown items to our students so they can know who grows their food and become more interested in fresh fruits and vegetables. We worked with Mountain Meadow Mushrooms, local family owned farm in Escondido, Ca to feature crimini mushrooms on all our salad bars. They grow mushrooms on site and we were able to film that fascinating process so our students could learn about them. It was really cool!


Q: Any suggestions for other districts on running a successful Harvest of the Month promotion?

A: Having clings on your serving areas and salad bars, as well as posters in the cafeteria helped promote the item and got kids talking about mushrooms. I saw a lot of kids reading the posters while they were moving through the lunch line, then saw their faces light up when they saw the mushrooms on the salad bar.

Download the San Diego Unified School District Case History

The Mushroom Council has developed a fully integrated Harvest of the Month kit to promote mushrooms as a versatile, fresh and local food to be implemented into farm to school programs. For more information visit our website or contact Katie Preis, Marketing Manager

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