By Patricia L. Fitzgerald 2014-07-29 00:45:13
Tried and Tested Don’t reinvent the wheel—borrow innovative ideas from other schools and districts and make them your own! Last month, more than 70 school nutrition professionals were honored at SNA’s Annual National Conference in Boston as winners of state, regional and national SNA awards. In early October, nominations are due for the 2015 FAME awards competition. The School Nutrition editorial team loves these awards programs, because the nominations process offers a fantastic channel for us to learn about innovative initiatives, creative collaborations and progressive practices—and share them with you! In the February 2014 “Ideas at Work” column, we offered more than a dozen bright ideas gleaned from FAME 2014 nominations. This month, we’ve mined more FAME nominations, in addition to those submitted to SNA’s award competitions, to share other potential “light-bulb” suggestions for you to adapt, steal outright or simply use to spark a creative brainstorming session among your team members. Made You Look! If you serve it, will they come? It takes more than a menu and a meal period to encourage students to eat healthy school meals—and a lot more to gain the respect and support of the community for your efforts. Successful operators know the value of marketing not just the meals, but the entire program—and doing it all the time and in a variety of ways. In New Castle, Del., Paula Angelucci, nutrition services supervisor, Colonial School District, took the tactic of inviting parents and the media to her cafeterias a step further. In the wake of negative media coverage following the introduction of new nutrition standards last fall, she invited a local radio personality to visit and get a firsthand taste. Angelucci recognized the extensive audience she could reach, literally through “word of mouth.” The special guest freely admitted that what she saw in the cafeteria was “an eye-opener”; that “she had no idea of all the fresh fruits and vegetables available in the schools”—and she passed along this enthusiastic report to all her listeners in the next day’s broadcast. There’s no “mystery” about the meals for students in the Chandler (Ariz.) Unified School District. Each year, recently retired Food and Nutrition Director Catherine Giza, SNS, has invited 10 classes to participate in a weeklong “Annual Product Cutting,” a sampling and evaluation activity among students, giving them the opportunity to provide feedback on future menu items. As a result, the school meals program can proudly and accurately boast that every single item on the menu is “student tested.” Visit the Food and Nutritional Services webpage for South Fayette Township (Pa.) School District (www.southfayette.org/domain/56) and you can take virtual “tours” of the lunch program at its elementary, middle and high school levels. Simple, downloadable PDFs feature a graphic layout of the various stations in the serving areas, along with instructions about required elements. The program, led by Tricia Wood, SNS, also offers a “Sports 2 Go” packed meal package for athletes traveling to away games. Speaking of targeting that key school demographic, Lauren Teng, SNS, administrator, food and nutrition services, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Union High School District, and the 2014 national SNA Outstanding Director of the Year, has offered a Sports Nutrition Seminar to students, teachers and coaches in the district. The seminar has featured presentations by guest athletes on such topics as hydration, general physical fitness and connections between nutrition and athletic performance. [Editors’ Note: Teng will be showcased in the “InProfile” column in the October 2014 issue.] Across the country, many directors make periodic presentations about the school meals program to their Boards of Education. Participation data, financial reports, awards and achievements are conventional compo- nents of such presentations. In Rochester, Minn., School Nutrition Services Coordinator Sherri Knutson, SNS, once brought a very special guest to the school board meeting for Rochester Public Schools: Bobby Banana! Bobby distributed fresh bananas to board members, while Knutson highlighted the many achievements of her program. Injecting something fun and unexpected is a great way to gain positive attention. At Superior (Wis.) High School, Cook/ Managers Betty Nordrum and Gerri Anderson didn’t hesitate to rise to the challenge of helping to establish the “Thursday Night Café,” a weekly afterschool program (3:05-8:00 p.m.) that provides a safe, social destination for local teens. Each week, the pair inject “ambience” into the cafeteria, providing a variety of snacks and beverages. They are so invested in the project, they are integrally involved in the programming and marketing, promoting such special events as karaoke, movies, student performances and so on. Treats are purchased from local businesses, and students get a free menu item each week. Nine students attended opening night last November, but the program has flourished, with as many as 75 kids showing up. When was the last time you took a close look at your facility for out-of-the-box opportunities? At Burlington (Vt.) School District, Director of Foodservice Doug Davis, SNS, realized that the location of a storeroom at the high school would make a great serving station—and not just for any ol’ menu choice, either. It became an International Food Line, featuring items that reflect a specific region of the world with ties to the Burlington community. With cuisines from China, Japan, Tibet, Bosnia, India and others, the students gain more variety, adult participation is on the rise and it’s proven a great testing ground for items to be added to the district-wide K-8 menus. Behind the Scenes The same creativity invested in marketing efforts is applied to all areas of top-tier school nutrition operations. It can be an easy trap to fall into the routines of simply getting things done on time, on budget and in compliance. Is it time to shake things up? Break down the average work day and seek fresh ideas for the most basic responsibilities. Gail Gramling, manager, North High School, in Torrance, Calif., and the national winner of the 2014 Louise Sublette Award of Excellence in School Nutrition, was understandably concerned when she learned that her school’s cafeteria program had its own Yelp reviews about “cranky” staff. It was time to develop “a culture of caring,” she notes in her Louise Sublette project report. As part of a multi-pronged approach, she established “Shiny Apple” recognition cards. During a specified period, students were asked to comment upon their dining experience, grading individual serving stations and staff members on such factors as “great service,” “fresh food,” “friendly smile” and “tasty food.” Students submitted the cards in a drop-box in the dining area. A group review of the comments—along with a Shiny Apple award to spotlighted team members—helped to reinforce customer service training messages. [Editors’ Note: Learn more about Gramling and her award-winning project in the November 2014 “InProfile” column.] SNA Past President and 2014 FAME Golden School Foodservice Director Sandra Ford, SNS, recognizes that there can be outside influences that affect the bottom lines of her individual serving sites in Manatee County, Fla., where she serves as director of food and nutrition services. To that end, she’s prepared a training class on managing school nutrition budgets for school principals. Ford has also empowered her team of site managers by training each of them to train their individual teams, rather than relying solely on the offerings of district-wide sessions. Managers conduct staff development sessions every month, focusing on a wide array of modules, including customer service, teamwork, leadership, stress management and personal hygiene. Cafeteria managers throughout Carrollton Farmers Branch (Texas) Independent School District are self-identified “Kitchen Wattchers” in a longstanding effort to conserve energy, reports Rachelle Sherrin, SNS, student nutrition director. Sherrin initiated a brainstorming session with her team, and one suggestion led to a time study that determined the actual time needed to pre-heat equipment for specific recipes, instead of turning them on for hours at a time. The information has been incorporated as a specific step for each recipe prepared by the team. To date, the Kitchen Wattchers have saved the district more than $50,000! Take pride in all the ways you commit to improving your program and your staff. Nominate someone on your team for a well-deserved award and put your staff operation in the spotlight! Maybe someone will be “stealing” your great ideas to better serve all our kids from coast to coast. Patricia Fitzgerald is editor of School Nutrition. Shine in the SNA Spotlight The SNA Awards Program has been revamped for 2014-15 and beyond, making it easier for you to be recognized for the amazing work you do every day. With the recent changes to the program, there are streamlined rules, online nomination forms and easy-tounderstand award names: ■ Employee of the Year ■ Manager of the Year (in honor of SNA Past President Louise Sublette) ■ Director of the Year Winners will earn new prizes when recognized at the Awards Ceremony at SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC) each summer. State winners will receive a certificate and ribbon, while regional winners earn a pin, certificate and $50. National winners in each category will receive a plaque, plus an all-expenses-paid trip to ANC (up to $1,000 for registration, transportation and lodging). Nominated employees, managers and directors must be SNA members and have a SNA Certificate in School Nutrition or the SNS credential. They may be nominated by peers, staff, colleagues or supervisors; self-nominations will not be accepted. For more details, deadlines and online entry forms, visit www.schoolnutrition.org/awards. You Deserve Some FAME Do you know an exceptional school nutrition leader who deserves to be recognized for his or her achievement, innovation and service? How about you? The Foodservice Achievement Management Excellence (FAME) Awards program, sponsored by Basic American Foods, Schwan’s Food Service, Inc., and Tyson Foods, Inc., is seeking nominations for its annual competition. Award categories include Golden School Foodservice Director of the Year, Silver Leadership, Silver Spirit, Silver Rising Star and Silver Friend of Child Nutrition. The awards ceremony will take place at SNA’s School Nutrition Industry Conference in Phoenix, Ariz., in January 2015. Nominations are due October 8, 2014. For more information and nomination materials, visit www.fameawards.net.
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