Description of Services
Lunch Lessons LLC conducts assessments through a combination of data gathering, analysis, interviews and observation. Years of on the ground operational experience paired with detailed knowledge of school food service operations and how operational shifts impact budget, staff and customers is the basis for our approach. An assessment is building the picture of where a district currently is, the actions of recent years leading up to the current state as well as considering any strategic planning currently in process. The outcome of the analysis provides the "next steps that the district can use as a cornerstone of their strategic plan to address the desired outcomes.
No two districts are exactly alike, but all food service operations share similar systems. When discussing school food service shifts away from ready to heat foods the question most frequently asked is; "are they ready?" "Readiness" is not a defined condition that we can measure, but there are indicators that help us determine what kind of candidate for change a district is. Who is ready; the school board, parents, students, administration, staff? What does change look like? Whose vision is driving change? Is the community involved? We can change the food, but we cannot guarantee if the district and its community are "ready" to accept it. Can change be sustained? Is it financially viable? How long will it take?
The district needs to determine what kind of shifts in approach and execution it can truly support, but in every case change requires a long term commitment. Lunch Lessons LLC will bring to its client the necessary information from which a district can decide its best plan of action.
Food Service Departments are a critical part of the daily fabric of school life and are often "unsung". Despite the fact their departments may account for a large percentage of hourly staff in a school district and their "work" touches almost every child daily, many school districts do not view the Food Services Departments as more than a requirement to make sure children are fed. The fact that Food Services are the ones solely responsible for managing the eligibility status of the entire district is often overlooked, though the benefits of the work extends beyond the Department's confines.
Food Service assessments create the opportunity to bring the accomplishments and the challenges faced by Food Service Departments to light. These assessments give Food Service teams a voice and help illustrate the very important work they accomplish, usually within exceedingly small budgets and in often outdated conditions. Many of the "next steps" come from the vision of the department itself. The assessment assists in activating the vision with practical next steps and the inputs needed to achieve them.
Every department is different and we often find they have unique needs, but the most common tools that are developed from the assessment and offered to them are:
- Budget tracking tools for fund tracking in meal counts, labor and daily food costs
- Budget development projections using historical and current data and trending based on data collection and current practices
- Organizational structure and labor recommendations based on analysis of existing operation
- Operational strategies for increased efficiency in day to day operations, improved participation, as well as targeted planning for improving customer satisfaction
- Menu development including cycle design, implementation of salad bars, meeting new USDA guidelines
- Procurement development relative to the current condition and recommendations and strategies for growth and change based on the planned goals of the department
- Marketing and communication strategies, based on the current conditions
- Strategic timeline for recommendations based on urgency, need, "low hanging fruit" versus long term goals
- The assessment report provides a tool for discussion and a "road map" for planning with administration, leadership councils and select community partners
Lunch Lessons' approach to district assessments utilizes a whole system perspective; meaning that "food services" is a complex inter-dependent network of systems including; finance, procurement, transport, food production, human resources, meal service, and federally mandated recordkeeping; all operating within a highly regulated environment with very limited financial resources. We look for strengths and challenges to the existing system and relate that to strategies that support changes the client wishes to establish or understand the feasibility of. We will identify what part of the existing systems are working well and can support change versus areas of the operation that may need modification, support, investment (either financial or other resources) to establish viability for accomplishing a different or refreshed vision of the district's goals within food services. As the assessment progresses many of the findings, good or not so good, are shared with the department leadership to insure a complete understanding of the program by the assessment team.
The scope of the assessment will focus on the existing state of and the historical trends in the district's Food Services Department and is limited to the areas listed below. We will require access to and meetings with key personnel in the school districts and the release to Lunch Lessons LLC of information related to the areas below.
Areas of Focus
- Review of school sites operations – sanitation, receiving and storage, food production, record keeping and service.
- A review of the historical trends and records of food services fund
- Reporting – Review practices, tracking and recording of purchasing, inventory, food production, catering, contracted services, direct and indirect charges, meal counts, business services interface with food services, and the district system for reporting with regard to State/Federal compliance.
- Procurement: Review of vendor, manufacturer, school co-op, distributor contracts and bids and analysis of all purchased goods for the fund
- Commodity allocations: Review practices, commodity pass through allocations (broker contracts), and direct delivery practices
- Review of menus, meal costs by type, meal planning by site types
- Human Resources: review food service organizational structure, job descriptions, and personnel expenses by area and location.
- Policy and Standards: Review of Wellness Policy, any other district policies regarding food services; Standard Operating Procedures; sanitation training; culinary skills training; customer service training and any other team building or professional development performed by the department.
- Marketing and Community Collaboration – Review of any recent or current strategies and programs to communicate about Food Services within the district and out to the local community. Who are the "champions" of the program locally? Are there key stakeholders who are or can support your program position through other activities; such as gardens, after school cooking clubs, recipe contests, farmers market entrepreneurs?
- Food Service Warehouse and Materials Management Operations: Review of systems relative to food services warehouse management, shipping, receiving, food production facilities, and transportation operations as operated by Food Services or in service of the department