The foodservice industry is a complex world of nutrition, culinary, public health, and management. One of the most unique, niche markets under the foodservice umbrella is Child Nutrition. Upon entering this dynamic segment, you’ll find unparalleled commitment and collaboration. Courtesy of federal funding, the goal is always feeding hungry students and operating to foster learning. With this, you’ll find some of the best tools and resources from USDA, FNS, nutrition consultants, and industry partners supporting this noble cause.
Collaboration is the Key
As an operator, collaboration is key to sharing best practices. Foodservice Directors’ responsibilities are so vast that they must rely on industry ideation to develop the latest operational efficiencies. Innovation takes time and strategic planning which is a luxury with staffing shortages and ever-evolving regulatory guidelines. From standardized recipes, staffing solutions, training materials, kitchen efficiencies, sharing ideas is a way of life for foodservice directors. An idea for one district is shared locally and nationally through social media and word of mouth. Sharing intellectual property free of charge is unprecedented in any other industry outside of Child Nutrition.
Industry partners in school nutrition include food manufacturers, brokers, equipment and sanitation vendors, and nutrition consultants. Rather than a traditional sales role, each industry representative adopts a consultant sales strategy using solution-based selling tactics. By identifying the need of the customer and finding a cost-effective solution amongst their product or service portfolio, both the customer and the sales representative are successful. You’ll even notice cross-merchandising between product lines to optimize USDA Food utilization. This entire strategy is only successful by comprehensive understanding of USDA programs, needs of the school district, and rapport between the customer and the salesperson.
The Business of Being a Team
Leveraging this synergy perpetuates an efficient program and industry evolution. Profitability and customer satisfaction are the goal of each stakeholder within Child Nutrition. Both the Food Service Director and the industry partner are running a business; both are focused on finding cost-effective solutions to increase student meal participation and employee satisfaction to increase profit margin. When we stop thinking about “Us vs. Them” and unite forces, we can truly accomplish a mutually advantageous relationship.
Child Nutrition is one of the most rewarding business ventures within foodservice management. Knowing each product prepared and sold within a school is helping to solve child hunger across the country is a daily motivator. Revolutionizing the business partnership of operator and industry member to a collaborative, transformational team achieves everyone’s goals for a lasting impact on global hunger.
Alison Powers, MBA, RDN
JTM Food Group