“Work smarter, not harder”, “two heads are better than one”, "why reinvent the wheel” – these axioms make a lot of sense; especially in the business of school nutrition programs. Many individuals and organizations are constantly looking for ways to provide tasty meals and encourage students to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. There are several organizations both nationally and locally that can provide resources to help your cafeteria reach that goal. Whether you are looking for recipes, serving line improvements, marketing tips, or just some great new ideas, it helps to have partners you can turn to! Who are they and how do you find them? This article provides insights into some organizations that can help you get a great start.
The School Nutrition Association has over 5500 members across the United States. They are the parent organization of the state nutrition associations who are also excellent sources of information. Their website has a wealth of information for school nutrition professionals and is located at www.schoolnutrition.org. They have an excellent resource page with information ranging from back to school trends, promoting and running your program, teaching kids about nutrition, preparing school meals, financial management and recordkeeping as well as links to many USDA resources to help you stay up-to-date on the latest regulations and research. The School Nutrition Association is instrumental in helping shape public policy, creating curriculum and training materials and keeping members nationwide connected and current.
The Institute of Child Nutrition (formerly the National School Foodservice Management Institute) is located in Oxford, Mississippi. It is part of the School for Applied Science at the University of Mississippi, and is a federally funded national center dedicated to applied research, education and training and technical assistance for child nutrition programs. They provide training materials, face-to-face and on-site seminars at little or no cost and free online courses designed to support the professional development of child nutrition program and child care personnel at all levels of responsibility. They even have an extensive trainer network to come out and train foodservice professionals in all regions of the country. You can find their website at www.nfsmi.org.
The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement is part of the Cornell Center for Behavior Economics in Child Nutrition Programs. Their mission is to equip school lunchrooms with evidence-based tools that improve child eating behaviors and in turn, improve the health of children. They believe in low cost/no cost solutions that have a lunchroom environment focus, promoting healthful eating behaviors and sustainability. Their resources are fun, easy-to-use and based on solid research from Dr. Brian Wansink and Dr. David Just – and best of all, they WORK! The Smarter Lunchroom Movement website is smarterlunchrooms.org. And don’t miss the two hour training module on the website and get 2 free CEU’s from SNA!
There are many more local resources available as well. Be sure to check with your local state chapter of the School Nutrition Association, department of Education or Agriculture, Dairy Council, Department of Health or chapter of Action for Health Kids as well. They know what the hot topics are in your state, and are available to provide assistance, ideas, training and resources for you as well to make your job easier. Afterall, “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up”. – Oliver Wendell Holmes