K-12 Census: Making the effort

As the battle over menu regulations wages on, schools continue to combat increased costs and food waste.

While the fight to address school nutrition standards and increase funding drags on in Washington, school foodservice directors are struggling to hold off challenges at home in their districts. To get an update on the scope of the issue, FoodService Director magazine enlisted market research firm (and sister company) Technomic to survey our readers for the 2016 K-12 Census.

Students’ needs are great, and the pressure to deliver higher-quality, better-for-you options is multiplying—and not only from regulators. More than half of school foodservice operators expect to increase the amount of locally sourced items on their menus in the next two years. Nearly half expect gluten-free items to rise, while the same number expect to do more scratch cooking.

That’s all while budgets continue to be squeezed by rising costs and greater food waste, the result of regulations that lawmakers continue to debate in Congress. Read on for our 2016 K-12 Census report, a current snapshot of what school operators are facing.

At a glance

72% of respondents say food waste has increased since implementing the fruit requirement at breakfast.

86% say their overall breakfast costs have gone up.

43% have seen their lunch participation rates go down this year, compared to last year.

58% find it extremely or very challenging meeting sodium reduction requirements.

Yet very few operators are dropping out of the National School Lunch Program.

In addition, many school FSDs are feeding students beyond the bell via catering, as well as after-school, supper or summer-feeding programs.


Who we surveyed

207 Number of school foodservice directors.

82% self-operated.

17% contract-managed.

1% partly self-operated and partly contract-managed.

26 Average number of schools in these districts.

49% Average percentage of students who qualify for free and/or reduced-price meals.

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