Written by Marissa Green, FSU Grad Nutrition Student and Jillian Bent, FSU Food and Nutrition Intern
School nutrition directors from across the Commonwealth gathered at Framingham State University on November 29th and November 30th for the Team Up for School Nutrition Success event, sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), and hosted by The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University.
The two-day agenda included panel discussions and breakout sessions that facilitated constructive dialogue between both mentors and participants on best practices for school nutrition programs. This unique learning experience encouraged school nutrition directors to share common challenges and solutions within their respective school nutrition programs, providing valuable networking opportunities throughout the event. Participants worked with mentors to discuss current pitfalls and establish SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) goals to make improvements in their school nutrition programs after the event.
The first day of the event focused on financial management and increasing participation key learnings and the second day on menu planning.
Some key learnings from day one included:
- Grab and go reimbursable school breakfasts are a great way to reach students that arrive late to school so they can also get the necessary nourishment to start their school day.
- If a menu item isn’t selling, it’s important to revise and/or evaluate your menus, as needed.
- Customer service is key for school nutrition programs. A smile or greeting can go a long way when you’re working with students.
The second day focused on menu planning and some key learnings included:
- Cycle menus serve as a great base when menu planning and can be flexible.
- It’s the people, not the process who impact menu planning the most because people add their own twist on recipes. Staff awareness regarding the importance of recipe standardization is a key for success.
- Find a “champion” in your school to help implement new programs and increase participation. It could be a student, a nurse, a gym teacher, etc.
- Promote your program and get active within your community – for example, attend open houses to show parents what their children are eating at school.
- Improve food quality by simply asking your team if they would eat the food your school is selling.
If you’re interested in learning more and finding additional resources check out Team Up for School Nutrition Success.