Acting as a buyer for a school lunch program is a big responsibility. With potentially hundreds of kids to feed, choosing food that is both nutritious, and appealing to a wide variety of kids, can be a challenging task. When you get it right, it can be rewarding and exciting. We’ve compiled a quick list of tips to help you become the best school lunch program buyer your district has ever seen.
Befriend with Your Food Service Distributor
When you’re planning meals that will feed all of the kids in your district, you don’t have time to watch crop forecasts and decide in March whether the dollars that you’re committing to ground beef, for example, will get you the cases that you’re expecting. Your food service distributor, however, absolutely can and does. By talking to them about your needs, you can get a sense, for example, of whether or not you need to transfer dollars to more versatile and less expensive products.
Don’t Forget Storage and Delivery Fees
When you’re comparing commercial bid costs versus USDA costs, it can be easy to forget, and just look at the price of the food. But remember that the USDA billing also includes delivery costs, which can mean that it’s less of a bargain than you think, when compared to your commercial bid.
This is an area where great food service software can help you project your budget cost for different recipes using different suppliers. Plug in all your numbers, and see where your savings really lie.
Keep Costs Down by Avoiding Waste
With many USDA suppliers, you’re looking at monthly delivery, which means that ingredients are often frozen until they’re needed. This is a great way to keep food fresh until you’re ready to use it, as long as it doesn’t get pushed to the back of the freezer and forgotten.
If you can keep track of your inventory, you can better plan recipes that will use up the ingredients in the freezer before their use-by dates, reducing waste and keeping your kitchen costs reasonable. Great food service software should always help you manage your inventory and seamlessly transition ingredients into recipe calculations.
Be Wary of Stale Advice
If you’re browsing industry blogs, and you find someone suggesting that chicken is going to be a great buy this year, or that cheese is the magical ingredient that will stretch all of your meals without bringing up costs, keep a close eye on the dates on the posts. While this advice might have been true last school year, for example, it might not be true today.
As a food service program buyer, it’s important for you to always be ready to change your approach to the program. Of course, to really understand what your recipes cost, and how much is used versus how much is discarded, you need good data to survey. High quality food service software can help you gather that data, so that you’re making the most of your food budget.
School lunch programs in the United States feed almost 32 million children a year, contributing to their overall health, wellness, and education. Kids who are well fed learn better, have fewer disciplinary problems, and in general are healthier. By crafting lunch programs that meet their nutritional needs but are also delicious and enjoyable, school lunch buyers become part of a lifelong relationship with food.
When you and your district choose great software to manage your inventory, your recipe creation, and your billing, you make an incredibly complex job substantially easier.
What tips have made you a better buyer for your school lunch program?