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.

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