By Cecily Walters 2016-06-10 06:11:23
Where every meal gets its start Tools They Can Rely On IF YOU’RE A REGULAR READER OF SCHOOL NUTRITION, you’ve probably noticed that this issue introduces a distinctive redesign. While the magazine’s refreshed look incorporates new elements and different types of content, it also contains some popular, long-time favorite features and articles. Similarly, as a school nutrition professional, your go-to collection of the equipment and tools you’ve come to rely on in your operation may be a combination of both tried-and-true favorites and recent discoveries. In this article, school nutrition operators share not only the workhorse products they consistently turn to but also some new or new-to-them solutions that have resulted in increased operational efficiency. School nutrition professionals share the tools they keep in heavy rotation to help streamline their operations. Streamlined for Success K-12 operators interviewed for this article cited a number of tools and pieces of equipment that they regularly use to help improve their operations. From fruit and vegetable slicers to heat-sealing machines to display cases, such solutions have been shown to enhance and expand the ability of the cafeteria team to offer nutritious, appealing foods to students in a short amount of time. A food processor from Robot Coupe USA ( A ) has made a real difference in Petersburg (Alaska) School District, reports Carlee Johnson, director of child nutrition. She notes that she and her staff often use the unit to prep salad bar items. For example, “We shred carrots and beets with [our Robot Coupe], so that kids have these fresh items. We find this way they [actually] eat the beets—and love them,” Johnson explains. Mark Bordeau, senior foodservice director for Broome-Tioga BOCES, in Binghamton, N.Y., is looking forward to introducing some new tools and equipment to his staff and customers in the upcoming school year. Among these are reimbursable vending machines from Star Food ( B ) in three schools (two high schools and one middle school). The machines, which will contain breakfast options, will be located in the main vestibule of their respective cafeterias, so students will see them immediately as they walk in. The vending machines will be connected to these schools’ point-of-sale systems, which are powered by NUTRIKIDS. Director of Child Nutrition Lisa Griffin, RD, LD, and her staff at Union Public Schools, in Tulsa, Okla., “love” Mannhart vegetable cutters ( C ). Designed to process high-yield “institutional” quantities, “They slice, dice, shred and julienne vegetables, fruits, cheeses—and breadcrumbs. They are easy to use and clean and are very sturdy, made of stainless steel and aluminum,” Griffin states. “We use a lot of local produce, and this equipment has made it easier to convince our employees to accept the local produce, because the Mannhart makes it easier and more efficient,” she raves. She also applauds the time and labor savings, as well as the increased employee safety, that go along with using the vegetable cutters instead of hand-cutting with knives. “I love this product because it wraps all of our food for us,” says Donna Myers, cafeteria manager at Harmony High School, part of Osceola (Fla.) School District. She’s describing her site’s heat-sealing machine from Preferred Packaging ( D ). The product seals items such as fruits and vegetables in small cups and burgers and burritos on small trays. Myers also values the fact that the heat-sealing machine extends the life of prepared salads, which can hold for at least two days once sealed. Additionally, the sealed menu items catch the eye of students, “who feel that their food is sanitary,” Myers asserts. The equipment is particularly useful in prepping food that will be transported to the various satellite serving sites located throughout the district. Myers and her staff plan to use the heat-sealing machine for their summer feeding needs, as well, since it can be used to seal whole trays of food, including milk and the other required components. Though she acknowledges that the heat-sealing machine takes some time to learn at first, she reports her team has grown accustomed to it. Fruit and vegetable slicers from Edlund ( E ) receive high marks from Dr. Cleta Long, SNS, school nutrition director for Bibb County (Ga.) School District, and her staff. Long and her team, who offer a number of Georgia-grown produce items, find that the slicers reduce prep time and offer consistency in the end product. “It also helps us meet our goals of serving fruit, since students are more likely to select and eat cut fruit, which helps with reducing the waste of fruits and vegetables,” she observes. In addition, Edlund’s produce slicers have only two removable parts. This makes them “easy to assemble, use and clean,” Long reports. She and her staff also appreciate that they are environmentally friendly, with no electricity required. While replacing several middle school serving lines last summer, Meghan Gibbons, RD, LDN, SNS, director of nutrition services for Valley View School District, Romeoville, Ill., and her team hit on an innovative solution for merchandising fruits, vegetables and sides. “I worked with an incredible consultant, Kristin Sedej from S2O Consultants, who provided an outside-the-box idea. We replaced the traditional four cold-well counter with a beautiful [convenience store-like] Structural Concepts ( F ) refrigerated display case,” she details. Gibbons and her team placed glass instead of metal on both sides of the cabinet to allow them to see their customers at all times, which helps prevent theft. In addition, “we also incorporated doors on the backside of the cabinet so my staff can efficiently fill the units from back-of-the-house, instead of inconveniently filling them [in the front] during lunch periods, interrupting customer flow,” she elaborates. Gail Koutroubas, school nutrition director for Andover (Mass.) Public Schools, has been on a mission to reduce waste. To that end, she and her managers developed a menu concept called Protein Power Packs. These on-the-go plastic containers feature compartments for all reimbursable meal components. Sample menu items found in the Protein Power Packs include strawberries, grapes, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, whole-wheat pitas, graham crackers, pretzels, yogurt and more. Koutroubas is pleased with the containers, which are from Greenware ( G ) and made from plants. Her team sought an attractive presentation that would allow students to see the products inside, particularly in a way that would be eye-appealing to young K-12 students. In addition, it was essential that the containers be designed to hold the appropriate size and weight of the various components, while still being easy enough to pick up and also hold a milk, Koutroubas explains. The Protein Power Packs have been a hit among Andover students. During a recent week, the operation’s schools sold out of all the pre-packed items. This menu option is available three times per week in the district’s elementary and middle schools and daily in the high schools. Software Solutions Products incorporating the latest technologies were cited by multiple operators as tools that allow them to maximize efficiency and connect with customers. Roxann DuBois, school nutrition director for Hill City (S.D.) School District, appreciates the software available from myONcore.com ( H ). According to the company’s website, the product is “an online food-based menu-building solution for all schools to help [them] comply with USDA nutrition standards for school meals.” Its database contains manufactured items, standardized recipes and USDA Foods, and the software calculates nutrition and meal pattern contributions for all items. myONcore.com also offers virtual networking through a messaging system connecting other school nutrition operators, allowing them to share ideas and directly contact an RD for assistance. DuBois declares that this “very nice tech advance” will “revolutionize my menus, record keeping and inventory.” DuBois also has found value in a software solution from Infinite Campus ( I ). Her operation is in the process of upgrading to this point-of-sale system, and DuBois eagerly anticipates the improvement. “Having our systems all working together makes it easier to keep parents and the school communicating. There are a lot of bells and whistles that will work well to improve our foodservice area,” she states. All 14 of Mark Bordeau’s Broome-Tioga BOCES operations will offer parents the option to complete and submit free and reduced-price lunch applications online for the coming school year, using a system powered by NUTRIKIDS ( J ). “We are always looking for new initiatives and ideas to make it easier for our customers to access our programs,” Bordeau asserts, adding that he believes this solution will fill the bill. Likewise, incorporating new software has made his operation much more efficient, notes Erin Vik, director of nutrition services for Westside Community Schools, in Omaha, Neb. Specifically, he recently moved his operation’s menuing system to LunchTray ( K ). (Visit http://westside.getlunchtray.com to see the system in use.) Elementary, middle and high school menus are featured, as well as nutritional information and other relevant links. “The website is mobile friendly, as well, so all menus are available to view on a tablet or smartphone,” he explains, making it a useful tool for parents, too. His department also has started to use Perpetual Inventory ( L ), a software product by NUTRIKIDS that is designed to improve operational efficiencies. Though Vik and his team are in the early stages of using this product, they have been pleased so far. “[Perpetual Inventory] is proving to be a very strong package for us,” he shares. Valley View School District’s Meghan Gibbons’ favorite tech tool this year? “Our digital menu app!” she enthuses. “Our digital menu board company, MealViewer ( M ), created an app [that pulls] our daily menus from each of our 18 sites, along with nutrition and allergen information (from NUTRIKIDS). With a couple of clicks, our customers and parents can now see what’s for breakfast and lunch at their school, plus nutrition and allergy information, select favorite items and more. Ultimately, customers and parents can now review all items and make more informed meal decisions,” Gibbons explains. The app also is a great resource for the district’s school nurses, who use it to access carbohydrates counts and allergens for various menu items, she asserts. Dawn Houser, SNS, director of nutrition services for Collier County Public Schools, Naples, Fla., is excited about the LG digital display flat screens ( N ) that she and her staff are installing in all of the district’s cafeterias to improve their marketing efforts. “We have renovated all seven high schools with new décor packages and flat screens. Now we are working on our elementary and middle schools,” she reveals. Finding Your Next Fave Did this article make you covet any new equipment or open your eyes to new solutions available on the market? SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC) will offer many more ideas at the industry’s single-largest marketplace for the K-12 foodservice segment. Learn more about some of the products referenced in this article or discover new potential favorite tools and equipment that you can add to your operation’s already existing line-up of top-notch solutions and strategies. Check out the ANC Exhibitor List (page 130) for a preview of the hundreds of companies that will be in San Antonio this summer. Regardless of the valuable product solutions you find at tradeshows, in the advertisements in this magazine and other sources, you may realize another, even more valuable resource for school nutrition success: your dedicated school nutrition team! That’s the case for Hill City School District’s Roxann DuBois. “My most important discovery this school year is how much my staff are into making this kitchen a wonderful place to be for our team and the wonderful students that we are honored to serve each and every day,” she says with pride. GOING THE DISTANCE Following is a list of the vendors whose products are mentioned in this article: • Edlund Company, LLC www.edlundco.com • Greenware http://greenwareusa.com • Heartland School Solutions (NUTRIKIDS) www.heartlandpaymentsystems.com/School-Solutions • Hobart (Mannhart) www.hobartcorp.com • Infinite Campus, Inc. www.infinitecampus.com • LG Electronics www.lg.com • LunchTray https://getlunchtray.com • MealViewer www.mealviewer.com • myONcore.com www.myoncore.com • Preferred Packaging www.prefpkg.com • Robot Coupe USA www.robot-coupe.com/en-usa • Star Food www.starfoodhealthyexpress.com • Structural Concepts http://foodservice.structuralconcepts.com “My most important discovery this school year is how much my staff are into making this kitchen a wonderful place to be for our team and the wonderful students that we are honored to serve each and every day.” BONUS WEB CONTENT In The Kitchen School Nutrition received so many terrific responses to our query about favorite equipment and technology discoveries that we couldn’t fit them all in the print issue. Visit www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonus to check out several more gold-standard solutions identified by your peers in the profession. Cecily Walters is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore., and a former managing editor of this publication. Photo of Preferred Packaging heat-sealing machine on page 176 courtesy of Beavercreek City (Ohio) Schools. Photo of Greenware plastic compartment container on page 176 courtesy of Andover (Mass.) Public Schools.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/In+the+Kitchen/2507186/310083/article.html.