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We earned national bragging rights
This summer, I had the honor of sharing our success story at the School Nutrition Association national conference in Atlanta. I presented on K-12 trends, alongside our superintendent, Dr. Angela Pringle, and a consultant who has been helping guide our transformation, Kern Halls.
We spoke to a packed house. Schools across the country face the same challenge of wining back unenthusiastic students and reversing dropping participation. The transformation we started with two of our high schools has already earned recognition in national industry publications, so people were eager to hear the inside story.
We explained that thanks to hard work by our team and continuing contributions by parent-volunteers and students, we revitalized our efforts, with more focus on students, more focus on service, and more powerful partnerships.
The focus on students was grounded in student input. We listened to recommendations from a group of students, our School Nutrition Champions. These volunteers serve as testers, change agents, advocates, and provide the voice of the students. We increased our communication with students through more social media and texts.
Our focus on service encompasses the environment in our cafeterias. We have renovated two high schools and more transformation is on the way throughout the district. Our friendlier, more welcoming cafeterias feature school themed graphics, vivid colors and textures, a variety of seating, and a designated “VIP” area for seniors.
We also introduced service carts and satellite stations so the cafeteria is not landlocked (with long lines). Borrowing from fast food outlets popular with young people, we introduced black trays and portable boxes. Self-service and grab-and-go options made access quick and easy, boosting participation by more than 150 students the first day.
Our two “new and improved” high school cafeterias boosted participation by double digits in just 45 days. We’re holding onto these gains, too.
We will keep expanding on our improved food, service, and environments. Additional renovations are planned. Perhaps the most important thing we’ve built is a cycle of trust and communication. As we let students know what we’re doing, they share more ratings and responses, and that fuels are continuing improvement.