On November 9th and 10th school nutrition directors from across Massachusetts came together for a Team Up for School Nutrition Success Mentoring event, sponsored by The Institute of Child Nutrition, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), and hosted by The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition. Mentors and participants worked together over the two days to share ideas, experiences, and challenges they’ve faced in school nutrition. The two-day event included breakout sessions that covered financial management, increasing participation and menu planning. These sessions gave participants the opportunity to share ideas, concerns and resources with their peers.
The event provided an opportunity for the sharing of creative solutions through panel discussions. Here are some of the best practices shared:
- Student sampling surveys where students place empty sample cups into one of two buckets labeled with either a thumbs up or thumbs down symbol. This is an easy method for collecting feedback without the added work of synthesizing survey results. It is a good visual tool to see if the majority of students liked or disliked a recipe. – Crystal Andrade, School Nutrition Director, Old Colony Regional High School, Rochester, MA
- It CAN be done! Open your mind, think outside the box. “Attitude is everything – you have to cook with love and serve with love.” – Jacki Dillenback, School Nutrition Director, Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, Orange, MA
- Incorporate recipes from staff members into the menu. It increases diversity of foods served and the staff are proud to serve these foods. – Jill Lucius, School Nutrition Director, Fitchburg Public Schools, Fitchburg, MA
- Focus on communication with parents, students, and the community, about who you are and what you do. – Ruth Griffin, School Nutrition Director, Needham Public Schools, Needham, MA
After sharing ideas and best practices, participants were encouraged to set SMART goals for their own district. Participants worked with mentors to create an action plan to turn newly learned strategies and goals into actionable steps forward.
Participants’ Key Strategies:
- Meet with principals to discuss methods to increase breakfast participation.
- Increase participation for lunch by using Smarter Lunchrooms strategies.
- Try Offer Versus Serve in the classroom.
- Acquire more grill top space in high schools so that more grilled items can be offered daily.
- Establish a water-use conservation program by the end of the school year.
The event concluded with a general session appropriately entitled, Going Forward, where ESE staff members echoed the importance of a plan of action moving forward and next steps. Participants were encouraged to continue connections with peers and to take this fresh energy back to their districts and use it to move forward to accomplish their SMART goals. “If you’re open to it, you always walk away with something new.” Sally Teixeira, ESE. The event was very positively received by participants and mentors alike. Here’s what they had to say:
“It’s been excellent. I’ve only been a director for two months so I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how friendly everyone is and how willing they are to help.” – Elissa Maunus, SND, Sutton Public Schools, Sutton, MA
“This opportunity to network and brainstorm about situations and challenges we all face has been super productive.” – Danielle Collins, SND, Chelmsford Public Schools, Chelmsford, MA
“This was the BEST program I have ever attended. I would recommend it to all Food Service Directors, large and small districts, it brought us together like no other training had done before. – Diane Mikulski, SND, Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School, Worcester, MA
Interested in additional information and resources? Check out Team Up for School Nutrition Success.