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How Mary Davis is helping schools meet nutrition standards

Mary Davis, the director of food services for Unit 4 School District in Champaign, Ill., has mentored six districts as a part of the Team Up for School Nutrition Success initiative. The program helps schools struggling to meet updated school nutrition standards. We spoke to Davis about her experience as a mentor and her advice for other schools.

lunch cafeteria tray

Q: Why do you think the mentor program is effective?

A: I think people feel like it isn’t as scary when you are talking to other directors. It’s a little scarier when you are trying to get the state to explain it, or you have the state on-site, it makes for a very nervous lesson. What helps is they get a pretty good idea of what they are going to go back and start. 

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge to meeting nutrition standards?

A: I think right now the nutritional analysis is very difficult for small districts when they can’t afford software to do the analysis for them. Then they have to wonder if they are even doing it right, if the formula they did yesterday is even correct.

Q: How should FSDs combat that challenge?

A: No. 1: A cycle menu is very important. Ours is a five-week cycle. That way you have the same thing [for ease of compliance]—and you can incorporate something different once in a while to change up your menu.

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