A successful school nutrition operation relies upon many components. First, there are the tangible elements: Working equipment. Healthy ingredients. Appealing menus. Reliable employees. Then, there’s the intangible: Motivation. Inspiration. Dedication. Creativity. Let’s take a closer look at that last one: creativity. What does it mean to be creative? It’s not just about being able to paint a landscape, write a novel or compose a piece of music. Creativity means having the ability to come up with new ideas, novel solutions or an original link between two concepts. Every day, school nutrition professionals—from the front line employees to the district directors—exhibit creativity, whether they realize it or not. Still, tapping into your creativity takes time and effort. It’s purposeful. With all the mandates in school nutrition, it probably feels like you don’t have time to invest in creative pursuits, right? Before you consign creativity to the bottom of your priority list, know this: There are benefits to encouraging and developing a culture of creativity in the workplace for both school nutrition employees and the districts that hire them. Research shows that staff members who are encouraged to express their creative side during the work day are not only happier in their jobs, but also more productive—talk about a win-win! The articles in this issue of School Nutrition are designed to inspire you and your colleagues to prioritize creativity at work. Learn to break through the barriers holding you back (page 20). We’ll offer team-building exercises that can spark creativity among your staff (page 28), as well as resources that will help you keep those creative juices pumping on a regular basis (page 34). Use these inspirations to give your 2016-17 National School Lunch and School Breakfast Weeks promotions (page 38 and 52) renewed energy and creative life! EMPLOYEE PERKS » » Improved Health Embarking on a creative project is an exercise for your brain (we all need a mental workout every now and then), but it also benefits your physical health, too. Research shows that when you get creative, your breathing and heart rate slow down and your blood pressure and muscle tension decrease. » » The Potential to Make a Difference If you feel like a cog in the wheel of the school district, use your creative powers to break free! By exercising your creativity, you can make a visible impact on the work environment, which in turn can help you feel valued and boost morale among your coworkers. EMPLOYER BENEFITS » » Emotionally Invested Employees When team members lack passion or doesn’t feel like she or he is being encouraged to do their best work, they may be just going through the motions at work or even consider leaving for a position elsewhere. However, research shows that employees who are encouraged to be creative are much more invested. A creative environment boosts the employees’ desire to learn more, whether it’s receiving some new training or earning the next level of SNA’s Certificate in School Nutrition. Rather than thinking about school nutrition as a job, it’s now a career. » » Extra-Productive Staffers If you need more done in a day, hire staffers who display creativity. They’ll suggest better solutions to difficult problems and find innovative ways to become valuable members of your team. And, most likely, your lunchroom décor, customer service and student engagement will hit new highs! ADVANTAGES FOR EVERYONE » » Working Without Boundaries Fresh ideas don’t grow from the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way.” When employees are allowed to question, think creatively and suggest solutions—even those that may seem, well, a little wacky—the whole team will start thinking out of the box to identify innovative solutions to product or equipment challenges, create more efficient workflow processes and avoid unproductive ruts.
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