How many times have you been asked, “What is your favorite part of your job?” Mine is watching students make good choices while enjoying the foods we serve and knowing that I have a variety of resources available to serve healthy meals to our students. Then, however, there is the question: “What is your least favorite part of your job?” My answer is dealing with lunch charges and negative account balances. When I started in this profession, the school where I worked had a 7% free and reduced-eligible population. Today, my school has 60% of its enrollment eligible for free/reducedprice meals. Wow, what a difference! And with the increase in the number of students receiving meal benefits comes an increase in the number of complications related to collecting payment for meals served to students. Families are struggling all across the United States. In fact, nationwide, student poverty rose from 59.3% in 2007 to 65.3% in 2010 and will only grow in 2012, according to an article by Kelly Smith in the December 5, 2011, edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. We all have our own stories of students and families who have a hard time coming up with money for their meal accounts, and our hearts are heavy for them. At least there are things we can do as school nutrition professionals—and members of our community—to help ease the stress for students and families. For example, in addition to the increased support that I have observed from school administrators and social workers working with our districtfs child nutrition department and individual families, the Minneapolis Star Tribune article mentioned some other efforts being made throughout my home state of Minnesota to help feed hungry kids. Some of these projects may be available in your communities.and if not, maybe you can help get them launched! High school students help to fill backpacks with healthy snacks and other donated items for needy students to take home over the weekend. Some high schools offer food shelves or pantries where staff, teachers and even students donate food items that are made available to disadvantaged students. Many schools have an angel account's to which donated funds can be used for students who need help with lunch money. Do you know of similar efforts being made in your schools and communities to help feed children? Please share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. These stories are another reason I do love my job! Thank you for all that you do! Legislative Action Conference March 4-7, 2012 It’s almost time to join your school nutrition colleagues in Washington,D. C., for SNA’s 40th annual Legislative Action Conference! As the upcoming 2012 presidential election approaches, you will hear about the school nutrition-related issues that shape national policy, as well as have the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill to share your stories, expertise and passion for serving our nation’s children with your elected legislators. As front-line professionals working in school nutrition, you can tell legislators the real story of the impact of school meals better than anyone! Learn more by visiting www.schoolnutrition.org/lac or calling (800) 877-8822. Too Many Rules? Some Are Intended to Protect You There are so many rules in the school nutrition workplace today—and not just about food safety, nutrition standards or meal charges. There are numerous federal, state and local laws and regulations, as well as union rules plus workplace policies and procedures that affect how employees behave. It can be overwhelming, and although some don’t seem to make sense, rules in the workplace are usually there for a good reason. You may wonder, for example, why you might be prohibited from taking empty boxes home from the kitchen when you are moving to a new house. Or perhaps there is a policy against taking meal leftovers out of the kitchen, even if it means they will spoil instead. These rules, and others like them, often are designed to protect you as a professional from the unfair perceptions of others. Unfortunately, some are quick to make judgments without the facts, and these perceptions can become “reality”— and hard to undo. When you are frustrated by a rule that affects what you can or can’t do at work, take a step back and give some thought to how it may be protecting you from others possibly coming to a mistaken and unfair conclusion about your actions.
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