What’s for Lunch?
Does your school district want to serve scratch-cooked foods made with fresh and local ingredients, engage students in food literacy, nutrition education, and promote life-long wellness? But, struggle to implement change due to decreased student lunch participation, budget and facility constrains, or lack of trained staff? Your district is not alone. Many are challenged with these same issues.
Lunch Lessons understands the struggles and the challenges school districts face. With our years of on-the-ground operational experience, coupled with detailed knowledge of school food service operations, we can help your district achieve its goals.
Systemic Approach to Your School Food Transition
Lunch Lessons offers a whole system approach to “food services,” utilizing the complex inter-dependent 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.
WHY LUNCH LESSONS, LLC
- Budget development projections using historical and current data and trending based on data collection and current practices
Budget tracking tools for fund tracking in meal counts, labor and daily food costs.
Marketing and communication strategies, based on the current conditions.
Menu development including cycle design, implementation of salad bars, meeting USDA guidelines.
Operational strategies for increased efficiency in day to day operations, improved participation, as well as targeted planning for improving customer satisfaction.
Organizational structure and labor recommendations based on analysis of existing operation.
- Procurement development relative to the current condition and recommendations and strategies for growth and change based on the planned goals of the department.
- Strategic timeline for recommendations based on urgency, need, “low hanging fruit” versus long term goals.
HOW IT WORKS
Whole System Perspective
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.
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.
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.
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.
MARKETING & COMMUNITY COLLABORATION
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.