Food Service Directors (FSD) can be lone rangers in their individual school districts. The autonomy can be satisfying but the work can sometimes be isolating. Many district food service directors have organized themselves at the city, county, regional or national level for the purposes of supporting themselves and each other, growing professionally, improve innovation and service, and having a greater impact than they could individually. Here are some of the benefits of this collaboration:
- Share challenges, such as the USDA National School Lunch Program meal regulations.
- Share successes and learn from what works well in other school districts.
- Pool resources and ideas to honor lunchroom staff members for their length and quality of service. It is more fun to host an end-of-year dinner or BBQ with a multi-school team than by yourself.
- Be a stronger voice to proposed regulation and legislation changes at national and state levels. This can take the form of letters signed by the group or visits with legislators.
- Share best prices and sources for food items and other supplies. Set up cooperative bid pricing.
- Collaborate as a group with organizations such as Cooperative Extension and regional food banks for projects such as farm-to-school and harvest celebrations.
- Organize trainings for food service staff that benefit several school districts, such as Smarter Lunchroom strategies
- Apply for and receive recognition as a group of school districts. This can be done through your professional state and national school nutrition associations.
- Gain and give professional support with your colleagues.
Starting such a group is as simple as picking up the phone and calling other FSD’s. Set up a meeting to decide on an overall purpose and a couple of achievable goals in the first year. Refer to the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement website for ideas. Build from there to a regular meeting schedule, either monthly or quarterly. Contact your state child nutrition organization for information on existing active chapters, which can help you get started. Become a member of your state and national associations for ongoing support and professional support. Your commitment and dedication will excite colleagues to get involved and take on leadership roles.
Nancy Younglove, Food Service Director for North Rose-Wolcott Central School District in Wayne County, NY