While K-12 operators face different obstacles based on budget, region, district size and more, there’s one thing they all have in common: Those obstacles are never-ending. But so are the day-to-day successes and passion for the job. FSD reached out to some of our past Foodservice Director and Foodservice Operation of the Month winners for a peek at the year to come.
Meet the operators:
Gay Anderson, Child Nutrition Director, Brandon Valley School District, Brandon, S.D.
(FSD of the Month, May 2015)
Rodney Taylor, Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Fairfax County Public Schools, Falls Church, Va. (FSO of the Month, April 2017)
Joe Urban, Director, Nutrition Services, Greenville County Schools, Greenville, S.C.
(FSO of the Month, June 2017)
What are some important changes that took place in your district in the past year?
G.A. - We have continued to grow our breakfast program before and after the bell, and this remains a strong focus going forward. One of the most exciting things we were able to do this year is offer our first summer lunch program at one of our schools. We were hoping to draw 150-200 students per day, and most days we served over 300.
R.T. - We expanded our breakfast in the classroom to an additional 15, which brings the total to 20, and we’ll add an additional 15 sites during the 2017-18 school year. The Real Food For Kids salad bar was expanded to 20 sites, and we will add an additional 31 sites per year until all 141 elementary schools have the self-serve, all-you-can-eat meal. It is through the salad bar program that we intend to teach students to become lifelong healthy eaters.
J.U. - Protein was a major highlight. This includes adding high-quality seafood, served a minimum of once a week in elementary schools and two to three times in middle and high schools; partnering with a local cattle farmer to source humanely raised, no-antibiotic beef; and introducing St. Louis-style barbecue ribs to middle and high schools.
What’s the biggest challenge you expect in the coming school year?
G.A. - Adequate staffing. With 75% of the department all working under four hours per day, it is really difficult to find people who fit that niche.
R.T. - The biggest challenge/opportunity is to keep cost down by utilizing data, and streamlining processes, while increasing efficiency.
J.U. - Personnel is always a challenge in foodservice, especially in the K-12 segment due to the 30-hour workweek and only 9.5 months of employment.
What are you looking forward to most in the coming school year?
G.A. - I still get excited about each new school year. With a new year, we have new opportunities to continue advancing our program, finding ways to accommodate our clientele—the students—in the best possible way. I’m one who likes change, and am always on the prowl to try something new.
R.T - I’m excited about continuing to transform our nutrition program away from prepackaged foods to more local and fresh menu items.
J.U. - Finding new ways to reinvent school foodservice and expose students to new, exciting menu options. We’ll also be partnering with local chefs from high-profile resta-urants in our community to do pop-up “restaurant takeovers” during lunch service.
If you could hire for one specialized role, what would it be?
G.A. - I would like to hire a chef who has marketing experience and an understanding of how school meals work.
R.T. - I would hire a world-class marketing guru to help market our program throughout the district/state/country. We must tell our story—if not, we’ll have the best program nobody knows about.
J.U. - I would love to purchase a 40-acre farm and hire a farmer to grow our own produce.
If you could change one big thing about your program, what would it be?
G.A. - Universal meals for our students.
R.T. - I would have rotisserie chicken ovens in all 23 of my high schools. We currently have it at one high school, with a second to be added to another school within the next two years. Imagine the aroma of the daily outdoor grilling and a rotisserie oven inside along with our Fresh Express line…
J.U. - I would love to introduce supper programs at schools in our lower-income communities.