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4 stealable ideas overheard at a recent K-12 conference

Check out these ideas shared at the School Nutrition Association’s 2022 Annual National Conference.
A session at the ANC National Conference
Photo: Benita Gingerella

K-12 nutrition professionals from across the country met in Orlando this week to attend the School Nutrition Association’s 2022 Annual National Conference. Attendees shared ideas and best practices as they prepare to start the upcoming school year, including these:

1. Create a stewardship program

Elementary classes at Montague Area Public Schools in Montague, Mich., help nutrition staff by preparing breakfast in the classroom for their peers as part of a stewardship program. The students come in before school to help prepare the meals, and the nutrition team gives teachers a stipend of approximately $1,500 for having their class participate. Food Service Director Dan Gorman says the program allows students to learn more about the nutrition program and helps with staffing.

2. Start a labeling system

Nutrition staff at Hartford Public Schools in Hartford, Conn., seal their own bags of fresh produce and more. To keep tabs on when a bag was sealed, they implemented a color tape system.

“If you're going to use [a bag] on Monday, it's whatever color tape so that two days later if I see that color tape on the line, we know that it needs to be discarded at the end of the day,” says Senior Food and Child Nutrition Services Director Lonnie Burt.

3. Serve school recipes to parents and staff

Diane Grodek, executive chef For Austin Independent School District in Texas, has used catering opportunities to help change staff and parents’ perception of school meals. During the events, Grodek makes a point to serve the same dishes that are on the menu in the cafeteria.

“Parents and staff of the district come through the line, and they say, ‘Oh man, I wish you guys serve this in the cafeteria,’ and I’m like, ‘We do. These are the literal recipes that your kids are eating,’” she says.

 4. Don’t forget about paper job applications

At Burke County School District in Waynesboro, Ga., Food Service Director Donna Martin has tried to expand her pool of potential hires by handing out paper applications instead of solely relying on online applications.

“A lot of people can't apply online or on a computer,” she says. “So, if you get a paper application, you can hand it out in the carpool line, you can send it home in backpacks and tell them what a wonderful opportunity it is to work in school nutrition.”

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