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Mighty Muffins – dehydrated produce scraps plus surplus produce for public school breakfast

Using dehydrated vegetable scraps and surplus produce to create nutrient-dense, locally-sourced breakfast for public school students.

Photo of Jen
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CommonWealth Kitchen is working with Third Cliff Baking, Baldor Foods and Drexel University to develop a nutrient-rich, high protein, high fiber, low sugar breakfast muffin for public schools that uses dehydrated vegetable flour plus surplus produce sourced from regional farms. Each muffin will contain a full serving of vegetables to serve public school kids as part of a breakfast in the classroom program. 

The recipe will replace approximately 25% of the flour with a powder made from carrot peels, tomato ends, celery tops and the like that are a by-product from Baldor's produce processing operation. The recipe will also incorporate surplus produce, like carrots, zucchini, apples, and squash sourced from regional farms.

The goal is to create a delicious, nutritious breakfast option for public school kids, using surplus fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on feeding low-income and food insecure kids. 

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Once we develop and scale the recipe and process, we can expand the line to include products such as soup bases, pizzas, and empanadas using similar, largely surplus ingredients in a great, high profile, high impact way!

As we increase the volume, we can create economies of scale so that the production cost can eventually be fully paid by the school food program.  

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As a starting point, we already have agreement from the Boston Public Schools to pay $1.00 per muffin for the pilot phase, which they would hope to lower to $0.47/each as the project scales.  At this early phase, our total cost to produce will be approximately $1.20 each, a promising starting point while we are still working very inefficiently and in small volumes.

Other projects in the works include collaborations with farms and local gleaning groups to process surplus produce into shelf stable products-- like tomato sauce for retail, emergency food access, and institutional markets.... pilot projects are also already under way!

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What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We are working on recipes, nutritional data and costing now. We''ll launch a pilot effort in a few Boston Public Schools this fall to sample 2 muffins using surplus fruits and vegetables- like carrots and apples. We plan to get feedback and tweak the recipes as we add more schools, and then begin to introduce the new recipe that integrates dehydrated vegetable flour by year end!! Assuming all goes well, BPS is interested in scaling to feed all 56,000 students across the district in 2017.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We'd love help with developing the brand identity- thinking about how to tell the story; why what we're doing is important and impactful as well as tasty! Also, we'd love help thinking about packaging that is consistent with the goals and values we're trying to accomplish-- can we find affordable, biodegradable packaging? Can the packaging clearly convey our message about supporting local farms and creating local jobs as well as feeding people healthy food and diverting food waste? HELP!!!

Tell us about your work experience:

CommonWealth Kitchen operates Boston's non-profit food business incubator and food manufacturing social enterprise. Our mission is promote small business and create jobs, with a focus on people who have been impacted by racial, social, or economic inequality. We operate shared kitchens plus integrated business assistance to support @ 45+ food companies plus our contract work with a mix of farms, wholesalers, and restaurants. Over 75% of our businesses are owned by women and/or people of color

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

How far along is your idea?

  • It was in the works before this challenge – it’s existed for 2-6 months

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

Hey Nana-- We are hoping to create a delicious healthy school breakfast option that incorporates local fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste into delicious muffins so kids can start the day off right! No waste; just great taste!

[Only for launched ideas] How does your idea differ from what you're already doing?

CommonWealth Kitchen operates a food business incubator and a food manufacturing social enterprise to promote small business, create jobs, improve healthy food access, and strengthen the regional food economy. Our food manufacturing operation provides a range of small-batch processing for farms, restaurants and others. We also work with several food rescue groups turning surplus ingredients into shelf stable products. This muffin project is a natural progression of this work.

How is your idea unique to the space?

Our unique position is that we are a non-profit organization with a strong partnership with the City of Boston and the Public Schools. This distinction gives us the opportunity to pilot this project quickly, efficiently, and at a modest cost. We will have access to direct, immediate feedback from a wide age range of students, plus parents, teachers, and administrators, allowing for fast learning and adjusting of recipes, process & branding, as we finalize formulation and scale production.

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

We of course need to formalize our partnership with Baldor on the vegetable flour, and finalize an agreement with the Boston Public Schools. We also need to strengthen sourcing relationships with farmers for other surplus ingredients. As we (hopefully) gain traction, we need to bring in a team to help with branding, marketing, and packaging, as we will not be able to continue to do bulk production and distribution for very long-- and will need to secure a distribution partner.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

Impact will be measured first and foremost by how well the products are received and adopted by the school kids. We will survey students and teachers to find out how well they like the products, what changes they would want, what additional variety they want, etc. and use this feedback in real time to tweak the recipes and process. Also, we will measure the amount of surplus produce being diverted to produce the muffins-- both the amount of dehydrated veggie powder and fresh produce used.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

Our immediate next step is to start the pilot using muffins that integrate surplus produce from local farms while we continue to refine the recipe for the additional muffin that integrates the dehydrated vegetable flour. Our goal is to pilot all of the muffins by year-end.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jenn Gerard

Hi Jen! 
This is really exciting and sounds like you have some great momentum.  I was previously a Nutrition Services Director for six years and now work in the non-profit sector supporting school meal programs.  Have you had your product credited for it's contribution to the meal pattern (the amount of fruit & vegetables the product contributes, based on USDA guidelines)?  If you need any help navigating this or the school meal regulation or paperwork realm - please let me know!

This was another idea submitted to IDEO that I created along with Real Good Fish, that is making it's way to school districts throughout California.  Thought you might enjoy seeing the similar work being done:

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