Student Nutrition Services serves up tasty trainings to their site-based managers.
Over 250,000 meals and snacks are served daily to students in Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) by 1800 Student Nutrition Services (SNS) employees. Food Service Managers are directly responsible for the work-flow, schedules, and inventory and supplies that enable their teams to prepare and serve each and every one of those meals. SNS school-based managers from all HCPS elementary, middle and secondary schools recently met at the Silo Bend Training Facility to participate in a Welcome Back Kickoff that included a day of professional culinary training, software program updates, and the opportunity for authentic conversation about the current legislative and educational environment.
The day began with lots of hugs, handshakes, and catching up by managers, supervisors and support staff who seemed genuinely happy to see each other and hear about each other’s summer adventures and travels. After completing an online sign-in process, the group began their intense day with a discussion led by General Manager Mary Kate Harrison that included Florida legislative updates, new federal nutrition guidelines, and the current changes and conditions in the District that will either directly or indirectly affect the way that SNS operates on each campus. The mention of bell schedule changes, elimination of courtesy busing, implementation of the new 20-minute recess rule in elementary schools, and the status of salary negotiations set a serious tone that was quickly relieved by the introduction of new staff and changes in staff that occurred over the summer, including new babies, retirements, and site transfers.
SNS managers were presented with a wide choice of professional development topics and workshops that were covered for the rest of the day. Subjects included Ordering and Inventory, Nutrition, Finance, and Technology, and each session was facilitated by a SNS staff member who provided the managers with essential information. Managers were asked to share all this information with their school staff so that all team members can be more efficient, grow professionally, and feed as many students as possible.
While managers were in their workshops, Harrison shared her thoughts and goals for the new school year with Newsdesk. Each and every year the number one goal of the entire SNS program is to feed more children. By implementing and improving optional breakfast programs that allow students to “grab and go” and to be able to eat in their classrooms in elementary schools; establishing more opportunities in high schools to make food accessible beyond the cafeteria (more carts in more areas); and piloting other programs such as “second chance breakfast” and breakfast in the classroom for middle school students, Harrison feels that more access to food choices will equal more students eating more meals at school each day.
Professionally, the SNS support team will continue to plan school culinary demonstrations that offer students the opportunity to sample unfamiliar and different types of grains, proteins, vegetables and fruits. Harrison said that her school teams will be encouraged to participate in more culinary trainings that enable them to gain proficiency in techniques that make the food choices more attractive and nutritious. In addition, she hopes that more of her managers will aim for professional certifications, just as McLane Middle School SNS Manager Pam Smith recently did.
Smith earned her Certified Culinarian certification by taking part in a program that SNS offered through the American Culinary Federation. Smith, now entering her fourth year at McLane, is proud of her achievement, and passionate about her impact on students. "I want to be there [at work] every single day in a child’s life. I love that I might be that one person that they remember from their years in school.” Smith is adamant that she wants to be more than just “the lunch lady” – she wants to be perceived as a professional and an advocate for the culinary profession on behalf of her students.
It’s important to note here that SNS ended the previous school year in perfect financial balance. In Harrison’s words, “We didn’t make money, and we didn’t lose money.” Very few of the other large school districts in our nation’s biggest cities are able to make that claim. The federal government has mandated that school food service programs that receive dollar support from them must operate in the black, meaning that they cannot show a loss, or they may lose financial support. Not only did Hillsborough’s Student Nutrition Services not lose money, but they were able, over the last few years, to fund kitchen renovations in 130 schools. Federal law prohibits SNS dollars to be used for direct student costs such as textbooks, new school construction, and other such expenses, but they can use program monies for specific projects that enhance the overall program’s efforts for producing tastier meals, giving students more choices of when and where they can eat, and providing a safe and pleasant working environment for all SNS employees.
For more information about Hillsborough County Public School’s Student Nutrition Services, call (813) 840-7092.
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