The School Nutrition Challenges Checklist (with Ideas for Solving Them)
Congratulations for making it to another school year!
By now, most of our area school districts, if not all, are in full swing and back in session. This means the school foodservice and school nutrition divisions are probably going through a series of checklists.
Are we okay with staffing? How are this year’s processes working out? Do we have any faulty equipment?
As suppliers to school nutrition programs across Virginia, Washington, D.C., and even Maryland, we’ve put together this quick list of things to consider for the remainder of the school year. Consider it a challenge checklist with some possible solutions.
1) LABOR AND STAFFING ISSUES ARE SLOWING US DOWN. IT’S HARD TO TRAIN EVERYONE TO GET UP TO SPEED.
Staffing is consistently rated as one of the top challenges with school foodservice. When restaurants can pay higher wages, turnover in school cafeterias can be high. This means districts need to make it as easy as possible to help find, retain, and train staff members.
Solutions: Is your kitchen staff up-to-speed on how to operate your equipment? Consider training procedures to help them become more comfortable with operations. Train your staff on safety measures and processes, too, as that is the most import goal in a school cafeteria.
2) WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF SPACE. WE NEED BETTER WAYS TO STORE OUR INGREDIENTS AND TO MAKE BETTER USE OF THE SPACE WE HAVE.
Walk-ins and dry storage areas should be organized and clean. When they are, not only will staff make better use of space, they’ll make better use of time, as well. And we all know lunch periods are becoming shorter and shorter, meaning time is becoming scarcer and scarcer.
Solutions: Make sure storage facilities are clean, organized, and operational. Walk-ins and storage bins should close properly. Product rotation processes should be put in place to ensure quality and safety. And trash disposable should be organized and sanitary.
3) WE NEED TO MAKE MENU ITEMS THAT ARE BOTH HEALTHY AND TASTY. INCREASING PARTICIPATION AND MEAL PURCHASES ARE CRITICAL TO THE SUCCESS OF OUR SERVICE.
This is the constant battle in a school cafeteria. How can we make healthier foods that kids will eat? How can we serve the same item as last year that all the students loved, but make it healthier? How can we keep up with changing regulations?
Solutions: The reality here is equipment can make a big difference. What kid doesn’t love French fries? What nutrition expert doesn’t like foods that aren’t fried? These things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. With the right type of oven, for example, it’s possible to create a high-quality fry without the use of a fryer. Equipment can help school nutrition programs get more creative and to involve more types of cooking processes in smaller spaces.
4) OUR EQUIPMENT IS NOT WORKING LIKE IT SHOULD. WE EITHER NEED TO FIX IT OR GET SOMETHING NEW.
The new school year is always a time when school cafeterias and food production areas undergo unwanted changes. Sometimes equipment doesn’t work like it did at the end of the spring.
Solutions: Make sure everything is working properly. Calibrate your ovens with an inexpensive oven thermometer. Clean hoods and ventilation ducts. Replace water filters. Check gaskets and drain lines. And as you begin to create your new equipment wish list for the coming year, make sure you have all the information you need to ensure you get the right units for your challenges and goals.