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, all HISD students will be eligible to receive three free meals a day, a program announced just days after Harvey flooded the city. Breakfast is served in classrooms or handed out as students exit buses, NPR reports, while dinner is eaten at after-school programs or packaged to eat at home.
While I haven’t been able to speak with Wiggins about how HISD engineered this program so quickly, the entire response underscores the fact that FSDs must be literal wizards to not only accomplish everything that’s on their plates, but then go above and beyond to both innovate and care for their communities. (Read more about how K-12 operators are doing just that in September’s special section here.)
Though many of the stories in October’s issue cover operators who are innovating without an immediate crisis, they still highlight folks who are highly motivated to get it right. They’re creating career ladders to help employees see the next step forward, and keeping in mind workers with a variety of mental abilities by hiring for neurodiversity. They’re pushing chefs to the next level, and catering to diner demands with pop-up concepts.
This issue also marks FoodService Director’s third annual Chefs’ Council Menu Trends Survey, a project that’s proven prolific—but not surprisingly so. The group of 50 men and women is generous with both its ideas and time, and I’m especially excited to welcome some new faces to the fold this month—as well as a whole new event for FSD. I’ll let our publisher, Bill Anderson, tell you more about that last part.
Are you an operator who’s been able to help your community in a similar way? Please let us know—we’d love to share your story and your tips for success. And to all the operators working to recover from hurricanes—and to those who are not—one final tip of the hat once more for everything you do for your diners and communities every day.