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W h at ’s fo r

lunch

Volume #01 Fall 2012

Inside this Issue: Plate Spinning pg 1-2

With the vast majority of you already having a grueling week or two of trials and tribulations under your belt, we hope that our “What’s for Lunch” newsletter offers you a much needed and welcome reprieve. Our goal is to offer intriguing, thoughtful and proactive content to you, the food service professional, on a monthly basis. Many don’t understand or even, at times, seem to under appreciate the intricate level of multitasking it takes to run an effective and efficient food service operation, we want you to know that you are appreciated for what you do to keep our nations youth well fed and ready to learn and lead! Kudos from us to you. -The Food Service Solutions Team

PLATE SPINNING

Written by: Maureen Pisanick, RD, LD - President, Chief Nutrition Officer at Pisanick Partners, LLC

Jefferson County Schools Get it Right with Free Lunch Applications pg 2 NSLP and FORMS Working Together to “Feed More Kids”. pg 3 How to Improve the School Lunch Experience pg 4

With the new regulations in place, and planning well underway what can Food Service Directors do to keep the many plates they spin up in the air? The basics of food based planning seems simple at first, looking deeper into the new regulations might have you wondering daily maximum, minimum…green, red, whole grain, calories, fats – aaauugghhh!! Although more prescriptive, keeping in mind the larger goals of the new regulations can keep our plates in the air, lunches flowing in our lines, and ultimately healthier and happier customers in the end. As a visual learner, and serving a K-12 crowd, the first plate I have looked at to keep balanced is the MyPlate concept. This tool created by the USDA and available for review at www.choosemyplate.gov provides a ready-made and accessible resource for the color and balance of foods that is recommended based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This tool along with support from the Institute of Medicine and supporting agencies is part of the guiding force behind our new regulations. With that said, free and complete resources on this site are a good first step to organizing, implementing, and communicating out the changes on your schools’ menu this coming year. Just like many food service institutions we are always looking at ways to improve and market our plates, namely our lunch bragging rights. The Healthier US Schools Challenge is an award program that can be likened to the coveted “Silver Spoon” award in restaurants. Why does this matter to you? Not only does the HUSSC Challenge process gain national attention and award for the your efforts, the process

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Continued from page 1 to apply looks much like the menu planner required by the USDA to achieve the coveted six cents reimbursement for compliance with the new guidelines! It is logical given the similarities in the process to use the resources provided (including the whole grain or not to be whole grain list, as well as everything you’d want to know about legumes, and vegetable subgroups) which can be found by clicking (here). The effort will reap the bragging rights and add an element of marketing your plate to your school community that has gained participation and improved perception in my school nutrition program. A new spin to the plate in school lunch is a concept called Behavioral Economics. Although this might sound complicated, the truth is we all know it’s not considered good nutrition until it’s eaten. Namely, we are all working towards ways to meet the new guidelines while creating menus that kids will actually eat. So what are some things to consider? How do you make healthy acceptable, know who to tell, and who not. Behavioral economics tells us that even just giving a jazzy name to something has the potential to impact and improve participation for our younger customers. “Stealth Health” has been helpful for our older crowd to gain patronage, tactics such as positioning items to optimize healthy selections have been a proven success. Simple and cost effective strategies to position healthy options, provide an element of choice, and selection are all ways to use psychology to enhance your program. Want more information from the experts? Check out smarterlunchrooms.org to gain insights on how to set up your service lines, to providing quick tips on communicating your menu to students to increase the chance they’ll actually eat the new menus you’ve worked so hard to create! This can still seem like a lot on our plate! Well, your colleagues feel the same way – why not reach out to your network to gain support. We collectively have the information and as not to reinvent the wheel can share in the process of menu creation – remember we are not competing restaurants. I have gained wonderful menu ideas from friends including trends such as burrito bars, and smoothie recipes to speed scratch ideas that are manageable. Using resources like Chefs Move to School (www.letsmove.gov/chefs-move-schools), and tapping into local Farmers Markets have been other creative strategies to include fresh new ideas and recipes into our cycle menus to get the help to improve the students’ participation in our programs. Cycle menus are the tool necessary to help with keeping your program consistent, branded and manageable – all things we need to attract our savvy little consumers each day of the school year! Like the circus plate spinner, we have many moving and delicate parts to our operational goals. Keeping tabs on our menu mix, knowing what sells and what doesn’t, how much it costs us, as well as how many labor hours are reasonable to produce it are all the business Key Performance Indicators that we balance daily. Keeping current and reviewing these indicators regularly is key in implementing the new regulations and remaining synchronous with the goals of improving our students nutrition, while maintaining bottom line! The business of school food service is a tough act – but with planning, support, and resources, success is only a cycle away! Some quick takeaways; assess where your school is at on the continuum of providing 5 foods, in the right portion size and variety (HELP = CYCLE MENU), illustrate your menu daily as part of the new law and to gain participation, and always remember “spinning “ change takes a team effort!

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Jefferson County Schools Get it Right with Free Lunch Applications Plenty of families depend on the free and reduced lunch program for healthy meals for their children. Jefferson County School administrators know this and were concerned that, in these difficult economic times, every child eligible for the program will receive benefits. The administrators decided the best way to guarantee the application reaches the hands of parents is to mail it directly to their homes. This past Monday, Jefferson took their idea to the public; they sent the application, along with a postage paid return envelope, to every students’ home. All parents will need to do is fill out the application and mail it back to the district. Jefferson officials wanted to make this process as easy possible for the families. Too often in the past students received the application on the first day of school and misplaced it among other paperwork. Many parents missed the opportunity to sign up their children for the eligibility-based program that is determined by household size and income criteria. This decision to pay for the postage cost Jefferson money up front, but they get a gold star for trying to ensure that students who need free and reduced meals will receive them. The district will easily recoup postal costs because most students will now sign up for free and reduced lunches by October 15. By hitting that deadline, the Jefferson District estimates they may receive $1,000,000 in subsidies they may have before missed; since districts lose money for every eligible student who signs up for the program after the deadline. This is a great, easy step with long-term benefits. Any school district could follow Jefferson’s lead and implement this process so their students receive the much needed benefit of a lunchtime meal. In the odd chance that something happens to the original application, Jefferson made it available at all of their public schools. An application does not carry over from previous years; it must be completed each school year and cannot be approved unless the information is complete. Upon approval, the benefits are applied for the entire school year. Kudos to Jefferson County Schools for continuing to put their students’ needs first!

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NSLP and FORMS – Working Together to...

Feed More Kids

Since 1946, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) has been hard at work ensuring that each student has the opportunity to eat a warm, nutritious lunch or breakfast regardless of their family’s financial status. The program benefits all of those involved—children, parents and schools.

Benefits to Children

For children, the National School Lunch Program provides a nutritious meal that contains one-third of the recommended dietary allowance of necessary nutrients.

Benefits to Parents

For parents, the program offers a convenient method of providing a nutritionally balanced lunch at the lowest possible price.

For schools, the program enhances children’s learning abilities by contributing to their physical and mental well-being. Studies have shown that children whose nutritional needs are met have fewer attendance and discipline problems and are more attentive in class.

Working together, the NSLP and FORMS are truly living their mission to “Feed More Kids.” For more information on the NSLP’s Free or Reduced Meal Program, click (here). To learn more about what FORMS can do for your school or district, visit our website at www.foodserve.com.

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Benefits to Children

For children, FORMS removes the burden of each student in the family carrying home and returning an application form. A single multi-child household application form is all that is necessary.

Benefits to Parents

Benefits to Schools

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Since 1989, Food Services Solutions has made it our mission to “Feed More Kids” through the advancement of school lunch related technologies. Seeing a need to improve the NSLP’s Free or Reduced Meal program, we worked closely with school Food Services Directors and other administrative personnel to develop FORMS. An acronym for Free Or Reduced Meal Software, FORMS is a fully comprehensive software system and speeds up and simplifies the enrollment process. The benefits to children, their parents, and their schools is

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For parents, the FORMS system can be set to automatically send notification when it comes time to fill out the Free or Reduced application. No more wondering if they will have the application completed and submitted within the 30-day period. In addition, FORMS can import TANF and Food Stamp data for direct certification, eliminating the need to fill out an application.

Benefits to Schools

For schools, the benefits of FORMS are as numerous as they are beneficial. The software automatically calculates family eligibility by income, provides a complete history of student status changes (i.e., school transfers, lunch type, etc.), imports data from students management systems as well as exports data for No Child Left Behind, and the system runs on a client-server database—making it accessible anywhere in the school district.

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How to Improve the School Lunch Experience There are many strategies that can help improve your students’ school lunch experience, but there are a few that the nonprofit group Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger has found particularly successful. The following is a summary of their list of best practices.

1. Increasing Enrollment of Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Price Meals Encourage all students, regardless of eligibility, to return free/ reduced school meal applications. Schools have found that this helps to remove stigma for low-income students and reaches those families who mistakenly think they are not eligible. Many schools have gotten all students to return the applications by: •Asking all parents to return the free/reduced form, whether or not they have completed the application •Providing incentives, such as free breakfast, for a period of time for any student returning the form •Throwing class parties when all students have returned the forms

Provide maximum anonymity for students to enroll and participate in free/reduced price meals. •When all students return the application forms, low-income students have more anonymity •Install computerized point of sale systems with debit accounts to protect privacy of students obtaining meals (an additional benefit is that these systems greatly reduce staff time spent on record keeping)

Ensure that vulnerable populations of students receive the benefit of free school meals. The following students are categorically eligible for free school meals: •Students who are homeless (living doubled up or in campgrounds or shelters) •Students enrolled in the Migrant Education Program

Provide low-literacy or non-English speaking families assistance with completing applications. •Offer assistance with filling out application by phone, at school, or at home •Multi-lingual school meal applications are available on the USDA website: www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/FRP/frp.process.htm

2. Increasing Access to School Meals

Serve breakfast at snack time in elementary schools •Breakfast later in the morning helps feed those who ate breakfast very early, ate an inadequate breakfast, or who forgot to bring snack

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Schedule recess before lunch is served Keep the cafeteria open between morning and afternoon classes for middle and high school students Offer breakfast free of charge to all students •Schools offering free breakfast have increased participation for all students, including those eligible for free meals. Schools with more than 60% of enrollment eligible for free/reduced price meals may be able to afford loss of student payments by efficiencies gained by increased participation.

3. Improving the School Nutrition Environment Reduce, eliminate and/or improve the quality of competitive foods: vending machines, snack bars, a la carte, fundraisers •Limit the hours when such foods are sold •Increasing the price of competitive foods compared to federal meals •Remove competitive foods from schools altogether •Create nutritional guidelines for competitive foods

Make meals more attractive •Make plates more appealing: customize plates, vary color and texture, and use brightly colored wrappings •Provide more entrée, vegetable, or fruit options •Increase the use of locally produced ingredients

Offer menu choices that are convenient •Provide “Grab ‘N Go” meals that students can eat quickly and easily •Chose hand-held foods that include all the required meal components: wraps, sandwiches, yogurt/granola parfaits, burritos, calzones, etc.

Use “Offer vs. Serve” option: reduces waste and cost Involve the students in the meal program

•Include students in decisions about menu choices

•20 minutes for breakfast and 30 minutes for lunch

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•Makes the meal part of the school day and reduces stigma

•Encourage student representation on wellness committees

Provide students enough time to eat

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Offer breakfast in the classroom in elementary schools

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•Ask students to conduct taste tests or do surveys of new foods to get student input By improving your students’ school lunch experience, you will increase your chances of receiving additional government E-rate funding. It is truly a Win-Win situation. If you make it a point to implement these tried-and-true best practices, you will be well on your way to having your cake and eating it too!

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Whatsforlunch vol1  

http://www.foodserve.com/newsletter/whatsforlunch_vol1.pdf

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