What awaits K-12 operators this school year?

elementary school classroom

Several trends and regulatory changes are poised to impact school foodservice in the 2017-18 year. Here, we dive into a handful.

Potential confusion over meal policies

confused mom

Most schools participating in the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program must now distribute a written meal charging policy, but that doesn't eliminate the potential for misunderstanding on the part of parents or other stakeholders. “Broad interpretation can be dangerous,” FSD Kristen Hennessey said earlier this summer during a session at the School Nutrition Association’s annual conference, noting that FSDs should be as clear as possible in their respective policies and really spell things out. In addition, it's important to train people outside of foodservice staff on the policy, she said, from the superintendent to the board.

Relaxed food rules

whole grain breads

Regulations are less strict this time around, with schools gaining flexibility around whole-grain and flavored milk requirements, and receiving more time to meet the sodium reduction thresholds that were set to take effect this school year. Contending with such issues as falling participation and food waste, some FSDs welcomed the rollbacks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act announced in May, while others pledged to push ahead with the healthful initiatives they already had underway.

More demand for local and less processed

school garden

FSDs expect scratch-made and local options to continue trending this school year and beyond. Many K-12 schools are turning to on-campus farms, gardens and even orchards to provide hyperlocal produce for student meals, while others are experimenting with new speed-scratch preps that shave off time from standard scratch methods. 

Ramped-up around-the-clock feeding

brown paper bags

Thirty percent of respondents to FSD’s 2017 K-12 Census said they offer after-school meals, while 19% provide other outside-hours options such as snacks or catering. Late last spring, a New York school district debuted vending machines that work on both ends of the school day, offering as many as eight bagged breakfast options that are also available after school until 10 p.m.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
chefs

We started inviting chefs and FSDs from other districts to come prepare lunch. Through featuring different chefs and chef-inspired meals, I’ve found the students have been looking forward to coming into the cafeteria. They are willing to try new things with crazy names, and to ask for their favorite outside items turned healthy.

Ideas and Innovation
tapas

I’ve created a high school “focus group” to see what future college students will want in terms of foodservice. This year, I called up two now-seniors from the last group to get 10 of their friends together. I also include a sophomore or two so that I always have a contact for next year. Tapas, grain bowls and late-night breakfast all originated from this group.

Ideas and Innovation
making meals

This summer, we teamed up with a church to deliver meals to three housing projects. We brought the meals to the church, and then the church recruited volunteers to deliver the meals to the children. We’ve been very impressed with this new model, and it shows great promise in getting meals to children who otherwise would not be able to leave their housing project.

Industry News & Opinion
sharing love

Having never personally experienced a hurricane, I can only imagine the horrors faced by the millions of people whose lives were affected by Harvey and Irma in late August and early September. It’s a group that comprises uncounted noncommercial operations, including Houston Independent School District, which serves 215,000 students.

But from that tragedy has come one of the most impressive feats of foodservice I’ve seen since coming on board at this magazine, partially spearheaded by Nutrition Officer Betti Wiggins , who only just joined the district. For the entire school year,...

FSD Resources