Getting her the menu items she’ll actually eat, plus the equipment, supplies and services you need to run an efficient school meal program. Purchasing the goods and services you need—and your students want and expect—may be the single-most complicated aspect of operating a K-12 school meal program. That’s no small distinction, when you consider nutrition standards, food safety requirements, free/reduced meal application processing, equipment restrictions, prep and serving time constraints, hiring and training rules and so many other hallmarks of this foodservice segment. Not only are there federal, state (and sometimes local) requirements dictating the process, but the steps themselves vary considerably, depending on if you are procuring food, equipment, technology, supplies or services; if you are obtaining USDA Foods (processed and bulk); if you are a member of a purchasing cooperative; if you are purchasing locally grown/produced items; if your geographic location is one served by multiple distributors; the internal standards and processes established within your individual school nutrition operation; and so on. These many variables complicate efforts to develop comprehensive training for directors and managers, as well as for vendors new to this foodservice segment. And it’s no small feat for School Nutrition to determine the best mix of editorial coverage that will serve the needs of the most readers. The magazine team is woefully aware that the articles selected for inclusion in this month’s issue only scratch the surface of this topic. But SNA recognizes that merely lamenting our collective frustrations does nothing to address the problems with procurement. In an effort to move forward in developing effective solutions, the Association’s 2015-16 Board of Directors last year called for the formation of a task force composed of SNA members representing a wide spectrum of the K-12 segment to explore the issue. Led by Becky Domokos-Bays, PhD , RD, SNS, now SNA President, the Procurement Task Force produced a “white paper” report on the group’s findings; this report is excerpted in this magazine (page 24). In addition, SNA leadership and staff are seeking opportunities to develop more targeted training resources, including webinars and education sessions at national meetings. School Nutrition, too, expects to step up its inclusion of procurement-related topics in upcoming issues. For example, “To Bid or Not to Bid…” (page 32) will get a follow-up on reasonable criteria to include in a Request for Proposal (RFP) later this fall. Both cooperatives and commodities (USDA Foods) get short shrift this month, and we’ll work to provide some coverage of these essential topics in 2017. Also, we recognize that many managers and employees have little understanding of the roles they, too, play in the procurement process, and need information specifically tailored to their unique perspective. Still, SN readers at all levels are encouraged to read through the articles that follow (pages 24-48), as you simply can’t get enough education on this complex topic! The information may not be completely on point with your particular job responsibilities, and you may not understand everything that’s being discussed, but reading can only serve to make you more familiar with many of the terms and concepts that you are bound to encounter in your school nutrition career. It will take everyone working in K-12 school foodservice to solve the procurement puzzle.
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