Patricia L. Fitzgerald And Cecily Walters 2012-11-27 19:34:34
School Nutrition offers a sampling of little inspirations that can generate big innovations in your school nutrition operation. It may not seem like much, but a carved jack o’lantern apple at Halloween can have a significant impact on your cafeteria participation. We all respond positively to demonstrations of creativity—just think about the funny videos that go “viral” or the annual buzz about imaginative Super Bowl commercials. Have you become so focused on the daily challenges of producing school meals that comply with regulations and meet your budget that you have left yourself no time to play with the possibilities? Those challenges can be pretty overwhelming and it can be easy to postpone occasions for clearing the mind, gathering the team and just thinking about different ways you can shake things up in your cafeteria or across your district’s school meals program. And yet, it should be a priority, because the ideas that crop up will help you solve problems, identify opportunities and just allow you and your team to really enjoy what you do. School Nutrition wants to get you started. Following are two dozen ideas we’ve collected from varied sources, including award nominations, Facebook pages, newsletter submissions, media reports and more. (See? Yet another good reason to share your success stories every chance you get!) Maybe there’s one (or two or three or more) ideas that you can replicate or tweak or that will lead you to something altogether fresh and new. Read through these—and then be sure to visit our online bonus content page (www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent) for even more examples of creative solutions in school nutrition. TEAM BUILDING ■ Do your team members feel like they can discuss ideas and challenges with you? Or are you a supervisor who is only seen breezing in and out of the cafeteria at busy lunch times? Take a tip from Scott Kingery, RD, SNS, director of foodservice, Olathe (Kan) Public Schools. Kingery holds periodic “Table Talk with Scott” breakfast meetings. It’s a time for Kingery and his team to get to know one another better in a more relaxed atmosphere, sharing “the good, the bad and the ugly” in an open environment. He encourages sharing ideas and makes a point to thank his associates for the excellent work they do to find solutions to challenges. ■ In Eagan, Minn., Wendy Knight, SNS, foodservice director, District #196, Apple Valley-Eagan, encourages her staff to take ownership of their individual cafeteria sites in numerous ways, including various recognition programs—and some healthy competition. For one National School Breakfast Week promotion, Knight engaged her team in a competition to see which site had the highest percentage increase in breakfast participation. The winning school was rewarded with a visit from a professional chef, who prepared and served breakfast for the entire student body and staff. ■ School nutrition professionals in Spring Independent School District in Houston, Texas, also engage in a little friendly competition and team building—especially as the holidays approach. Director of Child Nutrition Melanie Konarik, SNS, started a gingerbread house contest more than 15 years ago. “The idea, initially, was to create a team building exercise for our cafeteria staff to share and enjoy together…. It’s grown bigger and bigger each year,” Konarik told YourHouston News.com. Each school’s staff enters one gingerbread house into the competition. As the school nutrition staff work throughout the five days of the contest to create increasingly elaborate entries, students are able to watch the progress each day. BREAKFAST ■ Want to serve breakfast to your students but find that serving the morning meal before the school day gets underway simply isn’t feasible in your school? Consider serving a grab ‘n’ go breakfast after first period, as the school nutrition team at Winfield (W.Va.) High School began doing last year. Breakfast is available between first and second periods two days per week; each breakfast contains milk, fruit and a whole-grain product. Some of the menu offerings were selected by the students, who provided their input in a survey. Student Ambassadors from the school’s Fuel Up to Play initiative bag the breakfasts for their classmates and encourage their peers to eat healthy and get active. Assistant Principal Sara Welch says the program has been “an extreme success.” ■ When teachers at Meadow Lane Elementary School in Lee’s Summit, Mo., were concerned about maintaining cleanliness after breakfast in the classroom was served, Nutrition Coordinator Lori Danella and her staff filled spray bottles with cleaning solution and made sure to stock a supply of extras. Students can clean their own desks using paper towels in the classrooms after they have finished eating breakfast or if they have a spill. COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS ■ To address an increasingly ethnically diverse demographic in Burlington, Vt., Doug Davis, SNS, director of foodservice, Burlington School Food Project, works to make new American families feel welcome in the community. For example, high school students hail from dozens of countries, speaking more than 60 different languages. In response, Davis converted a high school storeroom into a new service area, opening an International Food Line in 2011. Each week, menu offerings reflect meals from the home countries of new students (including China, Japan, Tibet, Bosnia, India and others)—and exposes all students to diverse menu options. In addition to creating meals that are appealing to these students, Davis partnered with a local food cooperative to hold cooking classes in his schools that teach refugee families how to adapt their traditional recipes by using locally available foods—and by maintaining a budget. ■ Parents of students at Messiah Lutheran School in Lincoln, Neb., have had the opportunity to learn how physical education has changed since they were in school, thanks to the efforts of the school’s Wellness Council (which includes Nancy Heinicke, school nutrition manager, a teacher, parents and two 5th-grade students, referred to as “nutrition quarterbacks”). The Council has organized three Family Fitness Nights, in which both parents and students participate in warm-up activities and then move to activity stations for jump roping, hula hooping, team relays and more. Events also include healthy snack demonstrations and tastings, including “rainbow” fruit smoothies using frozen yogurt and fresh frozen fruits of all colors. Participation has increased with each event; plans for a fourth Family Fitness Night are underway. OPERATIONS ■ Energy conservation may help save the planet—but it also helps save a school nutrition operation’s bottom line. In 2006, Rachelle Sherrin, SNS, director of student nutrition, Carrollton-Farmers Branch (Texas) Independent School District, initiated a formal energy conservation program among her team of cafeteria managers. As “Kitchen Wattchers,” staff are regularly encouraged to brainstorm ideas on how to reduce energy consumption during daily operations. One idea led to recording the amount of time required to preheat each piece of equipment. That data was logged into the steps for standard recipes to ensure that preheating was a specific step, rather than staff turning on all equipment early in the morning and leaving it running for long hours at a time. This single idea netted a savings of $58.56 every day—more than $10,000 annually. The team also has become more aware about turning off lights and reducing water usage. Cumulative savings total more than $50,000 to date. ■ One of the most common challenges for any K-12 school nutrition operation is serving meals at school sites with insufficient kitchen, serving and dining space and equipment. The solution of most districts is to “satellite” preplated meals from a central production kitchen, often a secondary school or newly built/renovated school site. In Colorado Springs 11, Director Rick Hughes, SNS, inherited a similar situation: five base kitchens, each that “did a little of everything” to prep a full meal. To improve efficiencies, Hughes changed the base kitchens to specialized production centers: a bakery, cold prep and two entrée locations. Menu items and ingredients are transported via refrigerated trucks from the production centers to individual schools for meal assembly. MARKETING & NUTRITION EDUCATION ■ In a competition between a master chef and a school chef, who would win? That’s the decision 4th-graders at Sea Road School in Kennebunk, Maine, had to make during a recent Iron Chef-type competition. Ellen Demmons, child nutrition director for Kennebunk’s Regional School Unit 21, battled against an executive chef at a local inn (one of New England’s three five-diamond restaurants), as the two chefs prepared a dish using a “secret ingredient” (sweet potatoes) and any food already in the school’s kitchen. After tasting the final creations, the students declared Demmons the winner. Whether you invite a local chef to take on a chef from your operation or challenge your staff to compete against each other to create a dish using selected ingredients, you might find that a little healthy competition is just what’s needed to shake things up in your operation—for you and your students. ■ Looking for a fun promotion to celebrate with your students? Look no further than Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19)! The school nutrition team at Moss-Nuckols Elementary School, Louisa, Va., celebrated the occasion with a contest to name the cafeteria pirate. The name had to be nutrition-related, and a 5th-grade class was declared the winner with their suggestion: Jack Spar’agus. The students won pirate costumes for all and a “treasure chest cake.” ■ In Clarksville-Montgomery County (Tenn.) Schools, where Debbie Mobley, SNS, is child nutrition director, school site managers are encouraged to showcase new menu items with samples available at the entrance to the cafeteria, rather than waiting for students to come through the line. Kids also are invited to become members of the “Two Bite Club” in an effort to get them to try unfamiliar foods. ■ Each month, the school nutrition team in the Londonderry (N.H.) School District introduces a different vegetable to elementary school students to teach them about healthy food choices. At least one recipe per week features the selected vegetable. One recent month featured greens; on tasting day, students sampled arugula, mesculin and romaine. And while an experiment with serving kale chips met an unreceptive audience, Nancy Faucon, foodservice director, insists that continually exposing students to different foods and recipes is the name of the game. “I have heard from a few parents that they have noticed that their kids will come home and request [a particular vegetable they tried at school]. I try to focus on vegetables that are easy to buy for parents,” Faucon details, noting that upcoming promotions will include spinach, beans, cauliflower and broccoli. Simple decorations and garnishes can give powerful eye-appeal to your menu items. Look for fun promotions to celebrate with your students. ■ Proud of your school nutrition operation’s website and Facebook page? That’s great, but when it comes to kids, there’s always the next new technological temptation around the corner. That’s why Chris Burkhardt, director of child nutrition, Lakota Local Schools, Liberty Township, Ohio, is now working with QR codes. These new generation bar codes are the latest marketing rage, as smartphone users scan the squiggle-filled boxes in order to be treated to special insider information or a user discount or other informational extra. Burkhardt has created QR stickers that are displayed around the school; a quick scan tells the student what’s on the menu for lunch that day! Not only is this effort a promotional tool, but kids come to the cafeteria knowing exactly what they want, speeding line service significantly. Plus, if they can demonstrate that they used the QR code to review the day’s menu, they might be rewarded with a healthy snack or promotional trinket. ■ Simple decorations and garnishes can give powerful eye-appeal to your menu items. For Election Day, one school nutrition team in Provo, Utah, added tiny paper American flags on toothpicks to each of its 100% whole-grain breakfast muffins. The full tray made quite the impact! Another school dressed up yogurt parfaits with tiny blueberry faces for a ghostly Halloween promotion. At Cesar Chavez Community School in Phoenix, Ariz., students used fruits and veggies in a nutrition-based art project to celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, a popular Mexican holiday). Pumpkins aren’t the only fruit that make good jack o’lanterns: You can do the same with apples, pineapple, oranges, lemons, limes—even bananas! What a great decoration idea for the serving line. Use a ghost-shaped cookie cutter on flattened mozzarella cheese for an eye-catching Halloween pizza. ■ Who Wants to Rock the State Test? That’s the game that 2nd- through 5th-grade students at St. Martinville (La.) Primary School play during state testing periods. Organized by Lynette Thomas, the school’s foodservice manager, the “game shows” are held during each grade’s lunch period. Students selected as contestants receive a curriculum- based question and can call upon a “lifeline” to help. Thomas, who competed herself this fall on the Food Network’s second “Chopped” episode featuring school nutrition professionals, reports that the school’s principal and students alike were so enthusiastic about her inaugural game show activity that she will put together similar events each year. ■ You know all about the marketing value associated with an onsite bakery that helps to draw student participation to the cafeteria based on smell alone. Fresh-baked buns or cinnamon rolls can be culinary magnets. Adam Simmons, child nutrition director, Fayetteville (Ark.) School District, has taken this successful practice an intriguing step further. To mark one school’s weekly Spaghetti Day promotion, Simmons throws garlic and oil on the stove, turning on the heat and letting the enticing scent of roasted garlic waft through the hallways. ■ Kids at one elementary school in Portland (Ore.) Public Schools were treated to an unusual line item in October: multi-colored cauliflower in bright shades of purple and orange. The children were told that it was “special Halloween cauliflower”—and 30% of the students gave it a try! FARM TO SCHOOL ■ We’ve all heard of farm-to-school programs, but what about fish-to-school endeavors? Students at Olympia High School in Stanford, Ill., are working with the school nutrition team and the school’s science teachers to create just that as part of a project called Grow Our Own. After receiving a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for an aquaculture program, staff and students began raising 50 to 60 tilapia in 400-500-gal. tanks in the school’s greenhouse, which originally grew only flowers. Once the fish are full grown, the goal is to eventually produce 100% organic fillets for the school meals program or to donate to charity. Mary Idleman, SNS, foodservice director for Olympia Central Unified School District #16, currently is working on obtaining the proper regulatory certification for the tilapia. ■ Taste of Washington Day, an annual celebration of Washington-grown foods served in school meal programs, draws school districts from across the state as participants in an event organized by the Washington School Nutrition Association and the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Farm-to-School Program. The celebration of fresh, local foods gives participating schools a chance to play an important role in introducing and promoting the wide variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, dairy products and meat grown and raised by Washington farmers. Sample menu items served at Taste of Washington Day 2012 included roasted Washington-grown vegetables (carrots, squash, potatoes, zucchini and cauliflower), Washington fresh fruit (such as apples, pears and berries) and yogurt cups made in the Pacific Northwest. For more ideas about starting or expanding a farm-to-school program, see “Go Grow!” on page 28. GRAB BAG ■ Sure, students can stop by the water fountain when they’re thirsty throughout the day, but kids at Chaska (Minn.) High School have another option—a hydration station featuring water flavored with fruits and veggies to quench their thirst. Kitchen Site Manager Spencer Fischer introduced free water options, including the always-available lemon-lime and cucumber. The third option varies and has included orangemint, strawberry-pineapple and watermelon. Fischer estimates that he provides 20-30 gallons of water per day for about 1,200 students and staff, who can use the small cups placed by the hydration station or fill their own reusable water bottles. “It’s only about five minutes a day to cut up the fruits and veggies, but it does take time to keep the water and ice refilled,” Fischer shared with MSNA Thymes, the Minnesota School Nutrition Association newsletter. ■ Will you be a member of a state delegation visiting Capitol Hill during SNA’s Legislative Action Conference in March? Consider “stealing” an idea from the Oklahoma team, led by Jeff Denton, director of child nutrition, Ponca City Public Schools. Denton and his cohorts host a “Breakfast for the Staffers” on the morning of Hill visits. A special nutritious breakfast featuring whole grains, fresh fruits and yogurt is personally delivered to the congressional offices early in the morning. By the time the state team arrives for a scheduled visit, the staffers are very appreciative—and receptive. Denton reports that almost all of the state’s congressional offices contacted him for direction on voting for the last child nutrition reauthorization. ■ Arden Elementary School in Columbia, S.C., is one of six schools participating in the Silver Spoon Program in Richland School District One. The campaign, developed and implemented by the school nutrition department, supports the district’s character education curriculum by rewarding students who practice good behavior and etiquette. Students are encouraged to exercise their best behavior in the cafeteria and throughout the school. The class that is selected each month for exemplary etiquette is recognized with a 2 1⁄2-ft. long silver spoon to display on their classroom door, a certificate and a mention in the school and district newsletter. The winning class and their parents also are treated to a special luncheon hosted by the school’s principal and school nutrition team. Lunch is served on china with silver flatware and linen napkins. School nutrition staff members report that since the program started in 2005, participating schools have noticed improved classroom and cafeteria behavior, and students have become very competitive in their efforts to earn the Silver Spoon. ■ With December upon us, it’s time to begin thinking about New Year’s resolutions, both personal and professional. As you contemplate your goals, why not take a cue from the Minnesota School Nutrition Association, which featured its members’ professional resolutions in its January 2012 newsletter? These ranged from taking the SNS credentialing exam to expanding the variety of fruits and vegetables served in their operations to stepping up efforts to spread the word about program achievements and initiatives. What are you and your staff planning to do to make yourselves and your operation even better than last year? In advance of a team meeting, ask your staff to reflect on their resolutions and share them with their colleagues. Or, for inspiration throughout the year, post your team’s responses in an area where everyone will regularly see them. BONUS WEB CONTENT Additional big and little ideas for improving school nutrition operations are available online. You will also find a list of resource and/ or contact information for each of the innovations spotlighted here. Simply visit www.schoolnutrition.org/snmag azinebonuscontent to access these web-exclusive extras.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/Who%E2%80%99s+Putting+Ideas+in+Your+Head%3F+/1245728/136277/article.html.