Billy Reid: Business Man

Billy Reid focused on finances to enable him to implement healthy changes in his program.


BILLY REID has transformed the child nutrition department at SALIDA UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT by:

  • FOCUSING on the business aspect of foodservice and keeping the budget consistently in the black
  • ADDING more choices to the menu mix and focusing on healthy, child-friendly flavor profiles
  • ADDING 32 contracts to provide meals to programs outside the district
  • GAINING national recognition for the district, with six schools receiving the Gold Award of Distinction from the HealthierUS School Challenge

Reid also increased menu choices. Now, in addition to the daily hot meal, students can select a prepackaged salad, such as a teriyaki-glazed oriental chicken salad or a grilled Southwestern chicken salad, or a deli sandwich. The salads are made using romaine or a spinach mix. No iceberg lettuce is used in the district. The deli sandwich is a whole-grain four-inch sub with the option of turkey or turkey ham with low-fat cheese.

This fall Reid is adding a fourth option to the daily rotation in elementary schools: a yogurt, fruit and whole-grain graham cracker meal.

Reid also used his culinary background to get the department to cook more from scratch. He estimates that around 68% of the menu is made from scratch. Reid says using the USDA commodity program has helped in this effort.

Take the department’s barbecue pulled pork sandwich, for example. “I could go out into the private market and buy a good barbecue pulled pork center of the pork entrée,” he says. “Let’s say it’s 50 cents [per serving]. I’m serving 4,000 meals. It’s going to cost me $2,000 to purchase a decent product. If I go through the USDA commodity program, I can do that for 10 cases of raw pork that we cook ourselves, not including cost of entitlement, for $3.25 a case. That’s $32.50. It costs me approximately $17.50 to make the sauce from scratch. I now did the same thing that if I’d bought it on the private market it would’ve cost me $2,000, I just did it for $50.”

Reid says it wasn’t hard to train the staff to cook more items from scratch. “If you have a business-minded chef who knows how to prepare [these items], then you can teach your staff to do it,” he says. “I think a lot of foodservice professionals, the cafeteria workers, I see a lot of them who underestimate their abilities. I don’t agree that it takes more labor to cook from scratch than it does to use a processed product. ”

Twila Tosh, the district’s superintendent, also has noticed Reid’s fiscal prowess. “Billy is always out there finding the best deals that other people turn down because it would require a little extra work in preparation or filling out grants and forms. He is passionate, energetic, committed and creative.”

Tosh adds that Reid’s culinary background has been instrumental in getting more students to participate in the program. “We got kiwis and the kids didn’t know what kiwis were,” she says.” So Billy went the extra mile to prepare them into like frozen popsicles. It took more time on the foodservice staff, but he is always looking for ways to make food accessible, fun and tasty for kids. That’s what makes him successful.”

Looking outside: In addition to increasing participation within Salida, Reid has added outside business as well. The department contracts foodservices for 32 sites, including day care programs, Head Start programs and private schools.

“A class that needs foodservices for lower numbers, individually they are not worth doing. But if you put 10 of them together now you’ve got a route,” Reid says. “The people [at these sites] are glad to be getting fresher food and something they may not normally get because other [directors] may not have the insight to see you can piece them all together.”

Reid also contracts the management for the foodservice department at the nearby Stanislaus Union School District. Reid’s department serves around 2,400 meals each day at Stanislaus, in addition to the 4,200 meals a day it serves in Salida.

“Salida, before I got here, was not a bad program,” Reid says. “It was a school foodservice program. It delivered good food to children and it did it quite well. What I brought to the table is the business edge.”

Marla Vennema, department supervisor, agrees. Vennema has worked for Salida for 18 years. “Billy is very businesslike,” she says. “He has a lot of energy. He’s fun to work with. Billy has gone into a lot more kid-friendly items. He uses a lot more fresh ingredients. When Billy does something, he goes for the top.”

Under Reid’s guidance, six schools have been awarded the Gold Award of Distinction. Three of the schools are in Salida. The other three are contracted sites. These six sites were the first in California to gain the HealthierUS School Challenge’s highest honor.

“I am a foodservice director and every day I work I get to feed children. What a blessing,” Reid says.

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