The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA) and the introduction of the Smart Snacks guidelines left many school districts wondering how they were going to support the meal program’s bottom line without offering the a la carte foods that teenaged students regular purchased.
Liverpool Central School District is a suburban district that reports a 43% free and reduced student population. It relies on the sales of a la carte items to help supplement it’s school food service department earnings.
In September of 2015, the Liverpool Senior High School was not in compliance with the health guidelines dictated by HHFKA. Extra large David’s cookies, half-moon cookies, large cinnamon buns and large pretzels with cheese sauce were offered on the a la cart line. Sales of these items were strong which lead the former Director to continue to let these non-compliant items to be sold as the department struggled financially to fulfill all the new unfunded mandates given by the USDA.
Gradually, these items with taken off the menu leading to full compliance in September of 2016 with all foods sold adhering to the HHFKA Smart Snacks dietary requirements. The non compliant offerings were replaced with fruit and yogurt smoothie drinks, small fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and single size whole grain pretzels. A wider variety of ice cream novelties (all compliant) with various price points and a new brownie bar item were also added to the menu.
Liverpool is fortunate to have a cart in the dining area that was previously used for meal service. This cart was made into a Snack Station serving fresh brewed coffees, assortment of beverages, smoothies and a la carte items. Signage and the way items are displayed are critical to increase sales. All signs are made on a color printer and blown up to appropriate sizes. Food items are NOT wrapped, but displayed attractively and served to the students. For example, fresh baked cookies smell wonderful and are displayed on a tray in a clear case. Pretzels are hung in the warmer unwrapped for students to view. A blender with smoothies mixing is on full display. Students are drawn to the cart by the enticing aroma and attractive placement of food items.
September 2015 saw a la carte sales for this school of $6515. September of 2016 with all the new changes saw sales to be $6157. Although it equates to a 5% loss in sales over the previous year, the difference is slight in comparison to our full compliance with the HHFKA.
The school also plans to rotate a la carte items seasonally to keep the menu fresh. Food trends are followed and staff engage students to determine what products are acceptable.
Read more about what schools can do to meeting Smart Snacks guidelines without hurting the bottom line here:
- Smart Snacks Resources to Help Schools with Implementation and Environmental Change
- Smart Snacks at School and at Home
- An Overview of Snack Policy and a la Carte Guidelines for School Food
Annette Marchbanks, Director of Food Service, Liverpool Central School District