On October 10, 2018, The Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Continuation Series offered a session for school nutrition professionals in Residential Child Care Institutions (RCCIs) called “Improving Access for RCCI’s in School Meal Programs.” RCCIs provide non-traditional meal service to accommodate children with varied special needs. This session was designed specifically for RCCI professionals to share, learn and network with others in the state. The session started with an assessment of the needs of the group to understand the challenges and successes experienced by RCCI school nutrition directors.
Participants were divided into small groups and asked to brainstorm and share the challenges and successes they have faced in their programs. The top three successes identified: 1.) students having positive feedback on the food 2.) healthier eating habits, 3.) improved overall health leading to weight loss and decreased obesity among students. The three major challenges included: 1.) staff training and accountability 2.) food waste and 3.) navigation of the DESE website. Once the challenges were identified, participants conversed, networked, listened, and learned about possible solutions and changes they could implement in their program.
Challenge 1: Staff training is not ongoing and management is not always present. Some staff members incorrectly count meals.
Possible Solutions 1: Encourage all staff members to attend a ServSafe training and offer portion control-related online trainings to new staff such as those offered through Making It Count. Ensure all trainers are able to train direct care employees about meal counting, especially on the weekends.
Challenge 2: There is excessive food waste resulting from food being thrown away by students and food service employees.
Possible Solutions 2: Provide nutrition education to students and staff about meal planning and portion sizes to help reduce food waste. Take a critical look at how food is seasoned or prepared, the appearance of the food, and what food students are throwing out most often. A possible solution to reduce food waste was shared by one of the participants where students assist in serving and cooking meals behind the line. As a result, these students encourage other students to eat the food they make, which results in less food waste.
Challenge 3: The DESE website, specifically the Document and Reference library, is difficult to navigate.
Possible Solutions 3: Add a search option or categorize the webpage to make it easier to find documents in the online library. Make To-Do lists interactive by providing a direct link to references and forms necessary to complete the paperwork on the lists.
Handouts from this session include: School Meals and RCCIs — Making It Fit and Meal Access and Reimbursement. If you are looking to increase your knowledge about implementing and improving USDA National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program operations, consider participating in a Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Continuation Series Program. These sessions are offered online and in person for the 2018 to 2019 school year.