School Nutrition Association Annual National Conference
Over 6000 people gathered in Boston, Mass. for the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference, ANC, to network about the latest ideas and practices, industry topics, equipment, supplies and food. This four day event began on July 13, 2014 and included nutrition professionals, industry members and allied organizations.
Hot Topic 1: Adapting to USDA Guidelines
Since the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, schools have been working to meet new nutrition standards. One of the main topics at the ANC was sharing ideas to help stay within the guidelines while serving foods students will actually be interested in.
In the presentation “Successfully Implementing the New Meal Pattern Guidelines,” representatives from Idaho’s Child Nutrition Programs, Walpole Public Schools (Massachusetts) and Norfolk Public Schools (Virginia) showed how they turned around their foodservice operations. Schools struggling with the new USDA guidelines, whether at the ANC or not, have the ability to review this presentation and use it as a model.
For schools looking for a simple quick solution on foods to serve, Idaho’s Child Nutrition Programs simplified it in a simple infographic, “Make Half Your Tray Fruits and Veggies.”
Schools can go above and beyond too. In addition to adapting to the new USDA guidelines, Norfolk Public Schools gradually implemented serving whole muscle meats and a majority of fruits and vegetables since 2011. They also removed fryers from their kitchens. (Consider switching with easy-to-use Vulcan ABC combi ovens for a healthier solution!).
Hot Topic 2: Meatless Monday
Schools across the United States have begun to adopt “Meatless Mondays” which stems from the non-profit initiative “Meatless Monday Campaigns.”
Kristie Middleton, food policy manager for the Humane Society of the United States and Meatless Monday advocate, was at the Humane Society of the United States booth to promote this initiative.
“We had a number of folks hearing about Meatless Mondays and interested in learning more,” Middleton said. “By adding more vegetarian options to a menu, it helps meet new standards, but also helps kids get the week off to a healthy start.”
One of the misconceptions of adding healthier foods to menus is that it costs more.
“In respect to financial resources, it’s not going to be more expensive,” Middleton explained. “It should be cost neutral or schools should save money.”
From what she has seen, schools have been adding menu items such as mushrooms, legumes and beans which have been an easy way to cut costs. Since many schools do not have the ability to do batch cooking, rather heat and serve, Middleton said having a Meatless Monday on the calendar has become really helpful to them.
Schools have also been using Vitamix blenders to make students quick and easy smoothies that give them the nutrients they need while disguising foods they might not normally eat.
For schools interested in starting a Meatless Monday program, the Humane Society of the United States has a complete toolkit with all materials needed included (signage, letters to parents, etc.). For funding assistance, Middleton suggested looking into grants provided by the USDA or through public health organizations.
Hot Topic #3: Community Eligibility
During the ANC, Becca Segal, child nutrition associate for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, shared information about community eligibility which allows high-poverty school districts to eliminate meal applications and serve free meals to students.
In her event recap, Segal explained community eligibility can help schools in several ways.
“For example, one Oregon school nutrition director who plans to adopt community eligibility, declared that she will not have to process 11,000 school meal applications this fall, enabling her to spend more time planning appealing, nutritious menus,” she said.
For schools wondering if they are eligible, the video “Community Eligibility in 70 Seconds” highlights key benefits of the program. According to the website, schools have until August 31, 2014 to sign up.
Hot Topic #4: Mobile Food
One of the biggest challenges school foodservice’s face today is getting certain meals to students as quickly and efficiently as possible, which Cambro Manufacturing covered at their ANC booth.
Cambro provides a wide variety of mobile food solutions for breakfast, lunch and snack services. Three of their solutions included:
- Versa Food Service System: Versatile food bar that can also be used for grab-n-go snacks or breakfast cart. These food bars are a part of the Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools program, which allows schools to apply for a free salad bar.
- Mobile Vending Carts: Ideal for schools looking to expand operations, improve service and revenue
- Grab-N-Go Flex Snack Cart: Mobile unit that is easy to move and set-up. (Contact a Central Product Consultant at 800-215-9293 if interested in this system).
Hot Topic #5: Thinking Out of the Box – Twitter Talk!
Social media played a huge role with this year’s ANC. On Twitter, everyone could follow everything in real time by using #ANC14 and can still go back to catch up on the discussion. Many on Twitter shared some of their unique ways to get students engaging.
— SchoolLunch (@SchoolLunch) July 14, 2014
— Phyllis Hodges (@hodgespm) July 14, 2014
— ManitowocFoodservice (@MTWFS) July 14, 2014
— NE Dairy Council (@NewEnglandDairy) July 14, 2014
— ManitowocFoodservice (@MTWFS) July 14, 2014
School Foodservice Equipment
Be sure to check out the school foodservice section of our website for equipment and supplies specifically for schools. Many products include special pricing or warranties exclusive to schools.