Start Preparing for Next School Year

Written by Milt Miller – April is just around the corner! Take some time now to think about the training and enrichment needed by your staff. What are the problem areas of this school year as a whole? Are these problem areas due to a lack of training? Make a list of current issues and look at how improved training and communication can alleviate them. I used to give my staff a short quiz each year to assess the areas where we were weak as a program and would plan my training and enrichment around those weaknesses.

The implementation of the Final Rule on Professional Standards for Food Service Professionals now makes these trainings mandatory; so why not put this mandatory training to good use? Six (6) hours of training are required per year for fulltime and four (4) hours for part time staff. There are many areas required by these new rules that will help to overcome the knowledge gaps that hurt program performance. Customer service, marketing, proper use of standardized recipes and production records, cooking techniques, and proper handling of product to insure top quality are just a few areas that many programs take for granted or have skipped completely in the past. One of the most overlooked areas is meal identification and this one hurts most programs financially every year.

Take a long hard look at you staff’s needs and select programming that will help them and your operation grow. There are state programs available like the Train the Trainer Program that will teach directors and managers how to train their staff. I know, you are so busy you just can’t spare the time for training. Well how can you afford not to and now it’s mandatory! Many state departments of education have already developed curriculums for these training issues. Look into using what is available to save yourself time developing your own program. Why reinvent the wheel? “Still can’t find the time,” you say. Then why not look to an outside source like a consultant or professional trainer or chef? You can’t keep putting training on the back burner it is a requirement now. “My program is small and can’t afford the cost of a consultant or trainer,” is the most often used excuse for failing to develop one’s staff.

A properly trained and informed staff saves food operations a great deal of money and increases revenues normally lost due to lack of knowledge. Most training fees are absorbed by improved cost efficiencies and service delivery due to having a more informed and professional staff. You have to spend money on occasion to make money. Pick the areas that have hurt revenues or caused waste in the past and make them go away by improving the skills and knowledge of your staff. If your district is small, co-op with other districts in your area and host a group training session. Split the cost among the districts involved. Many times getting a professional from the outside lends credibility to the presentation. It isn’t that you don’t tell the staff the same things as the trainer, but it’s the way it’s presented and they feel important that they are getting special training. This tends to cause them to pay closer attention. It’s kind of like being a parent, your kids don’t think you know anything and an outsider knows more than you. I used to get my neighbor to tell my daughter things that I wanted her to know. She would then come home and say, “Hey Mr. Jones told me this, isn’t that a great idea?” I was just happy she got the message and accepted it. It didn’t matter to me who told her.

However you plan to train your staff doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take the time to train them. A well informed staff that understands what they are doing will save and make additional money for your food program. If they feel important and are treated as professionals, they will act professionally. Don’t let upgrading the knowledge of your staff get swept under the rug again this year. Take time to plan and present well thought out enrichment programs that will enable them do their jobs and are pertinent to what they do. I assure you the results will yield a smoother and more profitable year.

Milt Miller is the Principal and Chief Innovator at Milton Miller Consulting. Throughout his 32 years in the food service industry he has managed, operated and assisted food service programs to become successful. For more information on this and other topics, contact Milt at; www.miltonmillerconsultant.com.

Free School Meals – Ensuring that All Children Are Able to Learn

Good nutrition is at the heart of learning. Studies show that, not only do students need a good breakfast and lunch for health reasons, but they also perform better on important standardized tests and assignments when they have a healthy meal. In contrast, brain functions slow down and are impeded by improper nutrition, junk food and poor food choices. So parents often turn to schools to offer the nutrition their child needs to excel.

The Problem with Lunch Programs of the Past

Free lunches and reduced-priced meals have been available to kids in public schools for some time. The problem was that only a select group of kids actually qualified for the free lunches. Many parents are low-income but fall just above the cut-off for such programs, yet still have struggles paying the amount charged by schools for daily lunches. For parents with multiple children in school, this can become a daily expense that they cannot afford.

Is Free Breakfast Enough?

Some schools have begun implementing free breakfast programs, in an effort to increase the involvement level of parents to get their kids started right in the morning. However, offering free breakfast is not enough. Many kids need free lunches as well, but their parents often do not know that they qualify, or they are not educated on what to do to get this going for their child.

Community-based Free Lunches

President Obama’s new free lunch program is out to change that. The legislation relies on the criteria of “community eligibility,” rather than individual need. Based on the general needs of the community in which the children live and attend school, free lunches are offered to low-income children.

This federal provision was made available as of the 2014-15 school year. It is now available for low-income communities with children who attend school but cannot afford lunch at the regular prices. It offers children 2 meals per school day: breakfast and lunch, which increases the chances of success in learning even more.

What to Do to Take Advantage of the New Program

Parents of communities need only to contact their local school districts to see if their area qualifies. Regarding school lunches, specific requirements are now much easier to reach than in previous legislative actions. The President’s new ruling opens the doors to many who had gone without proper nutrition in the past and makes it easier than ever to get nutrition to kids who need it the most.

Lunch Time, not Crunch Time: Tips to Increase the Speed of School Lunch Lines

Is your goal to cut down the time it takes to pay for lunches served in your school cafeteria? Faster lunch lines have become a priority for schools as they contend with overcrowding and shorter lunch periods to increase class time and boost students’ scores.

Schools also face pressure to incorporate more fresh produce into their lunch menu. This makes faster lunch lines vital, especially because sometimes, eating fresh, healthy foods takes longer than eating prepackaged or processed foods that are ready to eat. Chewing an apple, for example, takes much longer than slurping down sugary applesauce.

Faster cafeteria lines promote healthy lunch choices, especially when kids know they have the time to finish the food they purchase. Longer lunch lines, in contrast, leave little time for eating and seem to be an ideal way to mint lifelong customers for the fast-food industry.

There are many ways to use technology to increase the speed of the cafeteria lunch line, like adding the schools lunch menu online for parents to pre-order a student’s lunch, or using a hand-held point of sale (POS) unit. Collecting, tracking, and using the appropriate data with the right online system can make a huge difference.

Flexible POS

A flexible School Payment software and a cafeteria Point-of-Sale (POS) system eliminates the need for ticket and cash systems, allowing lunch lines to move more quickly while freeing up time for staff to focus on other pressing tasks.

Accepting payments through an online School Payment Software system can increase the speed of school lunch lines drastically. Allowing parents and schools to manage students’ school lunch accounts online means students don’t slow down the line paying with cash. Parents can make secure deposits, pre-order meals, and pay school fees all through an online school payment software system.

Using a hand-held POS unit, designed specifically for cafeterias, has everything needed to quickly get students, employees or customers through cafeteria lines.

Allows for centralized reporting.

Keeping all cafeteria data in a centralized system allows food service managers to better manage their food service operations. With access to a centralized system of lunch data, schools can better prepare for food allergies, identify food preferences, and find healthy alternatives that kids will eat.

Patterns in lunch consumption can also help schools spot trends and preferences, which leads to more informed decisions regarding child behavior, academic performance, and more.

Increase Revenues.

When students don’t have to deal with cash or ordering at lunch time, the lunch line moves faster and more students are served. The greater the number of students served, the higher the revenue for the school.

Increase Reimbursements and Cash Flow.

Whether students receive a subsidized lunch or pay for their lunch, a system that tracks lunch data allows schools to better manage the reimbursements and reduce the number of unpaid lunch accounts.

Reduces waste.

With more accurate tracking of sales, schools get better inventory controls which minimizes waste and gives them more accurate data to reduce food waste and spoilage.

 

Our School Lunch Software and portable POS unit provides everything a school needs to quickly get students through cafeteria lines. For pricing or more details, call 1 (800) 425-1425 or email us at sales@foodserve.com.

10 Reasons Many School Food Programs are Operating in the Red

Written by Milt Miller – School Nutrition Programs nationwide are struggling to stay in the black. Many are not succeeding, showing deficits in excess of $100K or more. The amounts of “Red Ink” spilling from school food programs since 2010 is astounding. To what can this be attributed? The new guidelines? High amounts of plate waste? Significant decreases in participation? Large amounts of unpaid lunch accounts? Increased cost of compliance? There are as many reasons, excuses, and theories as there are stars in the heavens, but it all boils down to ten main reasons why school food programs are bleeding.

In my experiences working with school nutrition programs, that are struggling to become self-sustaining, I find a combination of the following ten reasons why they are in the red.

  1. Outdated Labor Models, resulting in unmanageable salary and benefit costs.
  2. Outdated Menu Offerings, that no longer meet student customer expectations.
  3. Lack of Sound Purchasing and Procurement Procedures, resulting in excessive plate costs.
  4. Ineffective Marketing, resulting in students and parents not knowing what is being offered and what is happening in the café.
  5. Noncompliant or Nonexistent Charge Policies, resulting in high amounts of unpaid lunch accounts.
  6. Underutilization of Available Technology, resulting in poor tracking and reporting procedures, that hamper the making of informed decisions.
  7. Underdeveloped Food Handling, Customer Service, and Meal Recognition Skills, resulting in decreased participation and revenues.
  8. Ineffective Free and Reduced Meals Application Procedures, also resulting in increased unpaid lunch accounts and loss of federal and state funding.
  9. Adopting or Dropping out of a Federally Funded Program without Sufficient Research, resulting in the loss of unrecoverable revenue sources.
  10. (And this is the most significant reason) Inability to Admit there Is a Problem, resulting in continued deficits year after year.

Most of these issues go unnoticed because administrators have become desensitized. Being in their operations day in and day out they just don’t see the eminent danger to their programs, until it’s too late. Once they start to see the deficits pile up many times they are in denial and don’t want to admit they have a problem. Many times it takes a set of fresh eyes to see what is really happening. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are our revenues steadily decreasing?
  • Is there a significant amount of unpaid lunch accounts? 
  • Are food costs above 38% of sales?
  • Are Labor Costs above 52%? 

If you have answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you have a potential unimagined problem. The next three questions can mean the difference in bleeding red or getting back on track.

  1. What is my next step? 
  2. Can I handle this myself? 
  3. Where can I get help? 

Milt Miller is the Principal and Chief Innovator at Milton Miller Consulting. Throughout his 32 years in the food service industry he has managed, operated and assisted food service programs to become successful. For more information on this and other topics, contact Milt at; www.miltonmillerconsultant.com

Improving Child Nutrition and Integrity Act of 2016

Has the Last Apple been Thrown in this Food Fight?

Written by Milt Miller – The Senate Agriculture Committee has agreed to roll back some issues in the National School Lunch Program’s Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 guidelines, on Wednesday, January 20, 2016, in a show of true bi-partisan politics and compromise. The changes in the proposed re-authorization of the National School Lunch Act, that will provide some increased flexibility for schools to plan menus that will be more acceptable to our nation’s students, are the result of the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) continued lobbying on behalf of its member schools nationwide. Without the continued efforts of the SNA to present common sense concerns and rational solutions, on behalf of its constituents, I fear no improvements would have come about.

By pointing out the flaws in this needed but over regulated act, SNA provided actual facts and first hand observations from within the industry, to show what wasn’t working as well as providing workable solutions without greatly hampering the Act’s intent and purpose. Though hotly criticized by the medical professionals, child nutrition activists, and the White House, SNA held fast to its position and the position of its members. Aligning with the newly elected Republican Congress allowed for necessary leverage to achieve this compromise, without which no change would have been affected.

The SNA position, stated unwaveringly over the past five years, has been one of softening issues hampering school food operation’s self-sustainability and one of improving the wellbeing of America’s school children. Never once had they lobbied for the repeal or rollback of the entire program, as they have been accused by their critics. Again, thank you SNA.

As everyone is aware, the true sense of compromise is everyone wins and everyone loses. In the case of this bi-partisan compromise, it appears that one side has maintained more of the original Act and the other side has gotten some small, but necessary changes. Looking at the proposed legislation going before the Senate and the House in the near future, there appears to be some needed roll backs in the percentage of whole grains that must be offered and a hold on the sodium restrictions for at least two more years. These changes are definitely a step in the right direction and do provide some needed flexibility, but in no way do they ease the burden of increased cost and increased waste created by the implementation of the original act and its continued additional restrictions over the past five years. This compromise appears to be more of an offer of an olive branch rather than an attempt to fix the inequities in the program for the sustainability of school lunch operations.

Granted the roll back of the requirement on whole grains from 100% to 80% provides added flexibility in menu development and the provision of products students find more acceptable. Pushing back the sodium restrictions for at least another two years will allow many favorite items to remain on the menu, but nothing really has been done to address the increased cost of compliance, increased waste, or acceptable revisions to the Smart Snacks in Schools regulations.

An olive branch again has been offered in the waste situation, as the Secretary of Agriculture is directed by this act, to conduct studies to eliminate waste of fruits and vegetables through the increased use of salad bars and share tables. Both of these service models are deemed by the health departments of some states as unsafe food handling practices. Salad bars can create waste due to overproduction, poor rotation of product, and contamination, and share tables are collection areas for unwanted products that can be taken and consumed by individuals desiring extra portions of those products during the meal period. What if no one wants them? What if these foods become contaminated or are tampered with and a food borne illness is contracted from consuming them? Where does the liability lie? I do not believe this is an adequate solution to the waste issue. Addressing the increased cost issue was totally passed over as expected. The Secretary has been directed to appoint a committee to assess the Smart Snack guidelines and make recommendations for acceptable products to be allowed. This is a step in the right direction.

Increased funding for Summer Food Programs, facility upgrades, increased technology, and staff development have remained intact, the CRE or every three year state review of school food programs has been moved back to every five years, and the words “Buy American” have been added to the development of future procurement and purchasing requirements. Outside of a few other changes in language the act has remained intact.

Please do not interpret my comments as unappreciative or ungrateful. I am grateful for what changes and revisions have been made. They were necessary. I am thankful for SNA”s diligence in pushing for the flexibility and improvements that have been penned into this proposed bi-partisan legislation. I know that SNA will be supportive of these improvements and keep working to influence further improvements in the future. I just hope that this is not the last apple thrown in the food fight to improve child nutrition regulations.

Milt Miller is the Principal and Chief Innovator at Milton Miller Consulting. Throughout his 32 years in the food service industry he has managed, operated and assisted food service programs to become successful. For more information on this and other topics, contact Milt at; www.miltonmillerconsultant.com

2015: The Year of Healthier School Meals

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 97 percent of American schools report that they currently meet the school meal standards. The current standards promote whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein, and recommend less sugar and salt.

Schools across the country are finding creative, sustainable, and affordable ways to provide healthier meals for students.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) was passed in 2010, but it was phased in over several years, finally going completely into effect in 2014. The program helps to fund healthy meals for students in low income areas for the next five years.

Updated Nutrition Standards

As part of the HHFKA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated the school meal standards. They went into effect in 2012, and by 2015, most schools report compliance. The new standards require cafeterias to offer healthier options, like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting salt and sugar.

Vending Machine Regulations

In addition to school meals, the HHFKA also led to healthier snack options for students. That means a lot of schools switched from soda to water and from candy bars to snack mixes and other healthy options.

Team Nutrition

Team Nutrition is a USDA program that offers help to schools through Team Nutrition Training Grants, training, resources, and nutrition education lessons. In 2015, the Wisconsin Team Nutrition used their funding to create a contest for middle school and high school students. The healthy cooking competition is a way to get students interested in healthy meals and teach them how to make their own healthy meals.

Sustainability and Farm to School

Sustainability is another major movement of 2015, and when combined with schools, can be an opportunity for education, affordable food and a nutrition boost. In an effort to offer students healthier meal options, some schools across the nation have started their own vegetable gardens, cared for by students. All vegetables can be used in school lunches, providing a cost-effective and healthy alternative to processed meals.

Fuel Up to Play 60

Another USDA project, Fuel up to Play 60 combines exercise with healthy eating by promoting nutrition in school as a way to fuel the body. The goal is to encourage a healthier lifestyle, not just healthy meals.

What Does the Government’s New Dietary Advice for Americans Mean for School Lunches?

Every five years, the U.S. government revises its dietary guidelines. Each update should reflect new developments in nutrition and science, and the guidelines are meant to help all Americans stay healthy – including schoolchildren.

The newest guidelines were released on January 7, 2016, and there are some notable differences from the old guidelines. The new guidelines place a limit on daily sugar intake – it should make up no more than 10 percent of daily calories. Currently, many Americans eat over 20 teaspoons of sugar in a day, which is almost twice what the new guidelines recommend for the average diet.

Because the guidelines tend to dictate what students are served at school, there will need to be some major changes – which could take years. Many schools have resisted the change toward healthier meals in the past, partly because of the cost, and partly because they say students won’t eat healthier foods.

Why School Foods Are So Sugary

There are several reasons why the limit on sugar intake will be such a big change for school meals.

Many schools serve overly processed meals, from sugary cereals and bars to pancake lunches with syrup. Not only are processed meals more affordable than fresh foods, but they tend to last longer in storage because they’re full of preservatives.

Kids like the taste of sugar – and they’re more likely to eat (and purchase) more food if it’s delicious, cheap, and doesn’t have the fiber to make them feel full.

When schools face tight budgets, it can be hard to make the change to foods that tend to have less added sugar, like foods based on whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.

How Can Schools Enact Change?

In order to have healthy kids – who tend to do better in school – schools will need to make a change. It’s okay to start small.

Nearly half of sugars in the American diet come from beverages, from soda to juice. Simply offering things like regular milk or water instead of sugar filled drinks at school can cut a lot of sugar out of kids’ diets.

Prepackaged snacks or side dishes are another source of sugar, especially when they include sauces or dips. Offering whole fruits, like apples, bananas, pears, or oranges is a better option for kids.

Dairy can be another hidden source of sugar in school meals. Instead of flavored milk and sweetened yogurt, schools could limit students to regular milk and offer plain yogurt with fresh fruit.

Giving Free Meals to Hungry Students Can Get You Fired

Colorado and Idaho school districts have fired food service workers in the past year for providing a free meal to a hungry student. This is the case of Della Curry, the school lunch room manager who got fired by the Cherry Creek School District for giving free meals to students who couldn’t pay. Dalene Bowden, a cafeteria worker at Irving Middle School in Pocatello, Idaho, also stepped in for a 12-year-old student who didn’t qualify for a free meal and had no money to pay. A week later, Bowden was terminated from her position.

According to statistics, over 21 million children from low-income families qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch through the National School Lunch Program if their family’s income is 185 percent of the federal poverty line. Sadly, this means a matter of a few dollars can be the difference between getting lunch or not. In some public schools, students who don’t qualify for the low-cost or free lunches program are given a credit that ranges from $5 to $20 when they come to school without money for their meal. Other schools such as the Cherry Creek School District, provide hot meals to students the first three times they forget their lunch, and a small cheese sandwich and milk the fourth time.

As Curry herself noted, the so-called meal provides little nutrition to hungry students, and is not enough to satisfy growing kids and teens. Even worse, getting the cheese sandwich treatment is humiliating once the kids are old enough to understand its real meaning. Yet, many kids in schools across the nation are refused even these meals. “Cafeteria workers are told to throw out the child’s hot tray, leaving the student embarrassed and with nothing to eat,” states Bowden.

In a nationwide survey by No Hungry Child, a staggering 75% of educators noticed that their students came to school hungry, which greatly impacts their academic performance. Many teachers have paid for lunches for hungry children out of their own pocket.

But schools are within their legal rights to deny the students and hold their parents accountable, according to National Education Association. In one case, Willingboro Township Public Schools in New Jersey sent a notice to families threatening to dump students’ lunches in the trash if they were delinquent in payments. According to school food advocate Dana Woldow, this is one of the strictest policies in the nation, however, the consequences should be for the parent or guardian, and not for the kids.

Start the New Year by Reaching Out to Your Students

Written by Milt Miller – Most school food programs are underachievers when it comes to student participation. The participation issue is a many faceted issue; one in which most schools blame their underachieving on the new rules and regulations. Many believe their students have lost faith in school meals due to the prescriptive nature of the new guidelines. Many say the kids don’t like being told what they must eat and don’t like the new healthy offerings.

In order to move forward we have to ponder, if the students are saying this, what are they really saying? Are we as directors and school food professionals really hearing them correctly? Or are we hearing something entirely different and easier for us to swallow? Are we really listening? Most times the difference between mediocre participation and great participation is found to be in the translation of what we really hear our customers saying.

I just finished reading an article about the 2015 School Nutrition Association of Pennsylvania Director of the year Jillian Meloy. Jillian is the Food Service Director at Greater Latrobe School District in PA. This woman is really hearing what her students are saying and she is responding. When I read this article I knew what my next article would report. Great participation is directly proportional to the effort taken to listen and understand what customers are truly saying, and responding to those requests. 

“Your clients are the kids,” Meloy said. “They really have a voice in what they want to eat, what they like, what they don’t like.” “It’s really showing them what a balanced meal is. If the students take every single component, it’s a pretty meal, and it’s very, very balanced.” Jillian keeps track of what fast-food and chain restaurants are serving as a way to see what foods are being marketed to students and what they want to eat. She uses that information to develop meals that are appealing while being healthy. “I watch what they’re eating. I see what they’re putting in their grocery carts at Wal-Mart. That type of stuff helps me see what the kids really like to eat,” Meloy said.

What do her peers say about her? “She just doesn’t stay stagnant. She’s out there reaching out to the families of her district and different community groups.” Meloy works with a group of students to get feedback on what meals are popular and what should be changed. She also organizes samples of new menu items to get feedback on whether they should be added to the menu. That feedback will continue to be important as more regulations are passed on to school districts. Meloy said, “The next challenge is reducing levels of sodium in meals while still making them appealing.” As Jillian continues to adapt meals and encourage healthy eating habits among students, she hopes that her efforts impact what foods they eat throughout their lives. “You’re really making a difference, because they’re still growing,” she said.

Wow, congratulations Jillian on a job well done! How many of us are really listening to what our student customers are saying? How many of us take the time to look at what they are eating outside the school café”? This is a new year and at this time of year we are starting to look at next school year and plan our approach to winding down the old year. Why not take this as an opportunity to make a commitment to reaching out to our student clients and truly listening and looking at what they are really telling us?

How many of us are developing menu items based on current trends, not just using new products to produce the same old tired menu items? How many are effectively using student focus groups and not just going through the motions to say we have one? How many are reaching out to parents and community organizations to share what we are doing in our café’s? Are we providing our staffs the opportunity to tell us what students are really saying?

As this New Year dawns, let’s take the opportunity to make the remainder of this year and all of next, all about reaching out to our customers and meeting their needs. I guarantee your participation will increase and so will your revenues. If you are having trouble thinking of ways to do this, contact me. I promise I will listen and share some ideas based on what you are telling me. Let’s make this year the year of the customer!

Milt Miller is the Principal and Chief Innovator at Milton Miller Consulting. Throughout his 32 years in the food service industry he has managed, operated and assisted food service programs to become successful. For more information on this and other topics, contact Milt at; www.miltonmillerconsultant.com

You know your school food program is successful if…

Written by Milt Miller – Today in the school food arena, with all of its new rules, programs, and political views, there are virtually a million ways to show a program is successful. None of them define success as being self-sustainable financially, but a fiscally self-sustained program is deemed successful none the less. The whole successful program identification trend kind of reminds me of the old Jeff Foxworthy comedy routine, “You know you are a Redneck if…” At this holiday season, I would like to share my list of ways one can decipher if their food program is in fact a success.

You know your school food program is successful if: 

1. You have implemented all of the meal pattern requirements mandated by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.

2. You have implemented the Smart Snacks in Schools regulations.

3. You have appropriately raised paid lunch prices as mandated by the Equity in School Lunch Act.

4. You do not deny any child a meal due to an exceptionally high unpaid lunch account.

5. You have implemented the Community Eligibility Provision allowing every child a free breakfast or lunch daily.

6. You have instituted a Weekend Back Pack program to insure low income children are receiving meals on days school is not in session.

7. You are currently planning and scheduling staff development and enrichment programs in compliance with the new Professional Standards for School Food Professionals policy.

8. You have instituted a Farm to School or Buy Local purchasing practice at least two days a week.

9. You have become a Summer Food Program sponsor.

10. Your meal participation exceeds the national average of 65%, even though it takes at least 82% to be fiscally sound.

11. You provide nutrition education in the classroom.

If you can answer yes to at least one or more of the above listed items, in the eyes of the White House, FRAC, FNS, and USDA your program is successful. The unfortunate part of this success is that many of you, after accomplishing these lofty feats cannot meet your fiscal responsibilities without help from your district’s General Fund. Nowhere in this formula for success is there a requirement that a program must be financially self-sustainable as most school food programs are supposed to be. Some of you are fortunate to be fiscally sound, but most are not. Some have left the NSLP and foregone reimbursement to serve their customers what they want and have willingly shouldered the extra financial burden. This to me is a noble act of true customer service. These programs have decided to shoulder a small loss of income to serve their students and insure they all receive the foods they want, than to shoulder a greater loss due to increased waste and decreased participation. In some cases leaving the NSLP was the right move and resulted in no loss at all or a small acceptable loss.

I am not saying that these lofty aforementioned success indicators are wrong and not needed. I wholeheartedly support them and believe they are much needed, but with some changes to insure financial sustainability and increased flexibility. In these times more and more school boards and administrators are looking at privatizing their food programs. Alas, even food management companies, with their food service and business expertise and enhanced purchasing power are struggling to keep the programs they manage in the black. These are the times of over regulated, underfunded, cost prohibitive, over politicized, and ever changing government school meal policies. Legislators need to understand that non-profit does not mean to lose money. Some of the largest and most successful non-profits make money or they would not be able to continue service at an acceptable level. Their growth and outreach would be catastrophically inhibited.

I am a proponent of quality, compliant, and financially sound school food programs. I view this industry as a much needed service to today’s students. To all of the dedicated school food professionals in this country, it is my fervent wish that during this holiday season our government leaders work diligently to enact revisions to current policies that provide adequate funding, increased flexibility, improved regulation, and financial stability to this great industry. Happy Holidays and a very prosperous New Year to all.

Milt Miller is the Principal and Chief Innovator at Milton Miller Consulting. Throughout his 32 years in the food service industry he has managed, operated and assisted food service programs to become successful. For more information on this and other topics, contact Milt at; www.miltonmillerconsultant.com.