What’s for Lunch?

Does your school district want to serve ingredient-driven, scratch-cooked meals, engage students in food literacy, nutrition education, and promote life-long wellnessbut struggle to implement change due to fluctuating student lunch participation, budget and facility constraints, or lack of trained staff?  Your district is not alone.  Many are challenged with these same issues and in the current climate of the Covid-19 pandemic, every school district has been tasked further implementing new methods, menus, and meal delivery options for students learning at home and in-person. The 2021-22 school year presents more unknowns and school districts will be in the position to continuously adapt.

We see this time of upheaval as a major opportunity for school foodservice teams to redefine their mission and business methodology. Since March 2020, school foodservice teams have stretched and broken new ground they never dreamed they’d have to do. With the extension of Universal meals, the school food system continues to shift the paradigm of how meals fit into the school day and creates opportunities to reach more students.  With every meal offered at no cost, school foodservice must reflect deeply on how they perform all aspects of their work and they have had little or no time for reflection.

Lunch Lessons understands these struggles and the challenges school districts are facing. With our years of on-the-ground operational experience, coupled with detailed knowledge of school foodservice operations, we can help your district innovate its foodservice system through strategic analysis.  It is possible to identify new goals and achieve them. 

Systemic Approach to Your School Food Transition

Lunch Lessons offers a whole system approach to “food services,” utilizing the complex interdependent network of finance, procurement, transport, food production, human resources, meal service, and record-keeping – while operating within a federally regulated environment with limited financial resources. We identify strengths and challenges within the existing system to craft strategies to meet the goals of the school district and community. 


Whole System Perspective


menu + procurement + recipes + cooking

Food is the primary focus in the process, in support of serving a healthy, whole food based school lunch. We refer to this as “defining your food standards.”  We are not referring to federal or state code (while important and will be taken into consideration,) we are talking about how your district defines or describe the food ingredients procured for your meal programs.

Food standards definitions guide menu planning and ultimately procurement.  The amount of district and community stakeholders shaping and defining standards in food procurement is growing as school districts recognize the value in creating a healthy school environment on all levels, including the dining room.


accountability + meal counts + fund tracking + budget+ reporting

Fiscal Management is the process of keeping an organization running efficiently within its planned budget. Fiscal accountability in food service departments is imperative given the challenge of operating in a regulated environment, and often with limited revenue, outdated facilities, and high personnel costs. Meticulous fiscal management is critical to sustainably shifting the operational model from ready-to-serve foods to scratch-cooked meals. With reliable fiscal processes, food service directors can lead with full transparency and accountability, supporting informed decisions when developing and growing their programs.


kitchens + production equipment + dining rooms + warehouse

Shifting systems to a whole foods model may require facility improvement or construction.

It is essential for the food service director and key members of their management team to learn enough about facility design and equipment to guide the district and ensure that efficient production systems are created or maintained. Service areas and dining rooms need to accommodate the needs of the fresh food system, as well, with open concepts, comfortable seating and flow. Facility improvement planning allows a director to make the most advantageous decisions and direct her/his resources as effectively as possible when the opportunity arises.


food service organizational structure + job descriptions + position control + productivity

The human resources component is critical to any organization, and a clear understanding of the expectations and challenges related to staffing is essential for full-scale change to be successful. Personnel is the largest expense in food service departments and historically food service departments are populated with the lowest paid employees in the district.  How does a district increase the professional skills in its department within budgetary constraints?  Balancing production, revenue, and personnel costs is the biggest challenge in every changing system.  Assessments of participation trends, timelines for system change, reorganization for efficiency, and ongoing professional development are key components for program improvements.


local champions + communication strategies + key stakeholders

Marketing your school food program is paramount for reaching and maintaining your district’s wellness goals. It will elevate the significance of your work by educating the community about improvements to the school food system. When you tell your school and the public about the vegetables that you’re planting in the school garden, or the local farmers that you support, or the events that you’re hosting in the cafeteria, you are not only providing them with news, you are also encouraging them to get involved—whether that’s reinforcing the message at home, or taking on a participatory role.

Start System Innovation Within Your School Food Service

Contact Lunch Lessons, LLC