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Tips for Managing the School Lunch Program

Missed our recent presentations at the Texas Charter Conference or California Leadership Conference? Below are some highlights from our presentation on "Navigating the National School Lunch Program: Best Practices". Comment with any additional best practices you have created!

Start planning for your program EARLY!

- School Food Authority Application - if you wish to join the program for August 2017, begin your program planning in January 2017. Reach out to your state agency to understand the steps and documents needed. The biggest hurdles are obtaining a health permit from the local health department, and ensuring all paperwork is in order.

- Food Service Vendor - if you need to enter into a contract for food, or wish to change your vendor for August 2017, begin planning in Nov/Dec 2016. List out your program requirements, meals needed, serving times, equipment available, and solicit five or more vendors to submit proposals. The earlier you start discussions with potential food vendors, the more time you have to make needed facility upgrades or equipment purchases. Most states have very strict procurement laws that must be followed. Be sure to check with your state agency to discuss your intentions before you begin. We can also do an assessment on your program needs, and point you in the right direction.

- Food Service Manager - Find a person on staff to appoint all things food, and make sure they complete all required training to fully understand the program, or hire a knowledgeable consultant. Create your policies ahead of time - meal ordering, counting, claiming, money collection, and monthly checklists - to ensure you start the year with compliant procedures.

- Budget - Sit down with your consultant or finance manager and put together your food service program budget for the year. Project the total number of meals you will serve, assess equipment needs, meal software needs, paid student meal prices and labor involved. Be sure your revenue projections are enough to cover costs, and plan accordingly if general fund dollars will be needed. School Food and Wellness Group can consult with your SFA to put together a budget before jumping in.

Taking on the School Lunch Program is completely obtainable with the proper planning and systems in place. We are experts at helping schools start on the right foot, so contact us today to see where to begin!

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