Ideas for Shelf-Stable Healthy Snack Ideas for After-School Program ?
May 24, 2014 8:11 AM   Subscribe

I need suggestions for shelf-stable, healthy snacks for a one day a week after-school tutoring program I help run at the school I work at.

My students are "high need" (meaning 90% qualify for free or reduced lunch, and they live in a low-income neighborhood). Up until now the tutors have provided the snack, but the tutors are high school students and their choices have not always been the greatest (lots of dollar store cookies). I am looking for ideas for healthy, shelf-stable snacks I can buy in bulk either from Costco, a local Co-op or (if no other option) Amazon. The kids get a snack from the formal food service program, so this is a bonus snack, but for many of my students all of their nutrition comes from the food they eat at school, so I would love for it to be healthy and also something they will actually eat. We have between 30-50 kids in the program on any given week and we have about $1 a kid each week to spend.
posted by momochan to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Dried fruit!
posted by ocherdraco at 8:17 AM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I run a similar program but with a smaller snack budget (~$0.50 per kid) and I try to do cereal/granola bars or pretzels, which I know aren't necessarily super healthy.

I've also found bananas and apples to surprisingly kid-attractive but not necessarily shelf stable. If you're willing to go to Costco once a week though, bananas are a hit!

Other shelf-stable ideas: applesauce (cups or pouches), natural fruit leather, popcorn (if you can find it prepackaged), raisin boxes,
posted by raspberrE at 8:23 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

trail mix
fruit cups
posted by drlith at 8:31 AM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My first thought was a veg muffin (veg, egg, cheese etc.). But I don't know how feasible it is to buy them for ~$1 in your area.

Good packaged snack would be: kid sized granola bars (this brand offers Oatmeal Raisin and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip), rice cakes with flavor, applesauce, 100 calorie nut packs.
And how about bringing in bananas, apples etc. once in a while?

On preview, raspberrE had the same ideas, haha!
posted by travelwithcats at 8:35 AM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Trail mix in bulk, with a serving spoon to measure out individual portions. Ask the kids to bring a container or bag. Individually packaged stuff is expensive and wasteful.
posted by pguertin at 8:57 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a fruit pouch as my afternoon snack at work. The ones I get are $1.50 per, with a variety of fruit, but you can get these in bulk.
posted by Ruki at 8:58 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Even cheaper to DIY trail mix, especially with access to a Costco. Big containers of mixed nuts, raisins/other fruit, and M&Ms are really cheap and, when combined, filling. I can't think of anything that's more nutritionally complete, though.
posted by supercres at 9:12 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

On second thought, I agree with what pguertin said: "Individually packaged stuff is expensive and wasteful." and I missed that you mentioned "in bulk " in your post , OP. Apologies.
posted by travelwithcats at 10:14 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

In my state, day cares have to provide food plans that meet certain requirements -- so I googled day care food plan and came up with this link, which looks like it could be helpful.

Whatever facility you're using for your program, check to see if they are a nut-free facility and comply with that.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:51 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can apparently get Babybel cheeses at Costco. It looks like you can get them for less than a dollar a piece, which leaves room in the budget to throw in a few crackers or potato chips to round out the snack.

They come individually wrapped and are contained in a wax outer layer, thus they do not require refrigeration. Some stores keep them in the refrigerated section and some do not but they keep just fine without refrigeration, as long as the wax coating is not broken. You can get them in various flavors and the protein and calcium may be very welcomed by underfed little bodies.

I know some folks will protest the suggestion of potato chips as too fatty, thus not healthy. If the kids are underfed, this is not necessarily true and potato chips vary a good bit in quality.
posted by Michele in California at 12:47 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Bananas came to my mind too. They have a pretty decent nutritional profile if I remember correctly. You can eat them without touching them, which can be handy if there isn't time to wash hands or if some of the kids don't like to touch their food. They aren't one of the top eight allergens, which isn't a guarantee everyone can eat them but means they're more likely to work for more kids. I'm the only kid I've ever met who didn't want to eat a banana, but I was an odd duck.
The only thing is I don't know if they have as many calories as some of the other foods you could bring. For the kids only/mostly eating at school this sounds like it might be one of the most important factors.
posted by Verba Volant at 8:03 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

It also occurred to me that if you fit in a Costco run once a month, you could work a fair amount of actual fresh fruit into the rotation: something like bananas or grapes on week 1 and oranges or apples on week 2, then switching to a couple of weeks of truly shelf-stable choices.
posted by drlith at 9:17 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

My partner reminded me that since bananas are so inexpensive it may be possible to get the kids something to go with them like a seed butter. She knows there are peanut butter alternatives that you can buy in bulk online (or in stores? I don't know) and that come in small pouches or cups. She's seen a lot of them that are common allergen free to one degree or another.
posted by Verba Volant at 12:12 PM on May 25, 2014

Best answer: I have been sort of bean plating this a bit. The Babybel cheese link currently shows $11.75 for 28 cheeses but when I posted it, it indicated some discount could get it down to $9.50. At $9.50, that's about 33 cents per cheese.

And that got me to thinking that it might be really cool to offer three different items, each worth 33 cents, and let the kids pick "any three items" instead of giving them one of each. This would let the lactose intolerant kids skip the cheese without going hungry (I used to just not eat most of my lunch at school because of undiagnosed food issues -- but we ate very well at home, so this was not a big problem, just an annoyance) and would also allow other kids to say, have two or three cheeses (or whatever) if they especially needed the protein or calcium or something.

Then see what is popular and restock accordingly. Come up with a list of maybe ten or so shelf stable items and try different combos. Let the kids know you are experimenting and will adjust things depending upon what is popular with the kids.

You might find that what is popular changes over time. We all have a want center. We tend to crave the things we need. So if the kids can get two or three of the same item if they want it, you might find that, over time, some of their deficiencies get addressed and then they will want other things. So if one item is mega popular for a few weeks, don't be shocked if that suddenly stops being true. Instead, take it as an indicator that the kids are less deficient in something and adjust to the new popular thing(s).

I was thinking I might try for one protein item (Babybel cheese, peanut butter cups, Ziploc bag of nuts, pepperoni slices or similar), one carb (Ziploc bag of crackers or potato chips or corn chips or similar) and one "variety item" (a banana or apple slices or dried fruit or Ziploc bag of granola or Ziploc bag of peanut butter chips or Ziploc bag of chocolate chips or ...whatever). Change things up periodically and just see what goes over well with these kids and what works well, logistically, for the situation.

I think I would keep it at three distinct items each day and just let them pick if they want one of each or three of the same or two of the same and one of something else. I think trying for more variety beyond that likely gets logistically problematic for the staff and also could get problematic for the kids, who probably don't often get to choose anything. Kids frequently have little say in their own lives and this tends to be doubly true of poor kids, whose parents just do not have the resources to offer much choice.

(Offering them this choice could have bigger importance than you realize. My oldest son swears he learned good decision making in part because, when he was two years old, I let him pick any two -- but only two -- snacks when we went grocery shopping and this early practice in decision making was extremely important in his development of good mental models for how to make decisions.)

Okay, done beanplating. Whatever you do, good luck! This sounds awesome.
posted by Michele in California at 1:49 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

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