The Ultimate Guide to ANC 2018

It’s our favorite time of year at Meals Plus! The School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference 2018 is just around the corner. From July 9-12 industry professionals from all over the country will head to the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas for four days of sharing bright ideas, learning best practices, and illuminating a bold vision for K12 school food service! Whether it’s your first time, or you’re a dedicated annual attendee, we have everything you need to know to get ready.

Getting Started

First thing’s first—the Opening Session. This year, co-anchor of CBS This Morning, Gayle King will be starting things off! She will be bringing refreshing authenticity along with her dogged persistence to her assignments. After her keynote speech, she will be signing copies of her book, Note to Self: Inspiring Words from Inspiring People. She isn’t the only star studded speaker. On Thursday Chef Jeff Henderson will be sharing his journey from the streets to the stove, along with some real-life strategies to help you achieve your dreams. After his session, he will also be signing copies of his books. Check out SNA’s website for more information on the general sessions.

Gaining Bright Ideas

Whether you’re looking to develop new skills or enhance existing knowledge, you can customize a schedule of educational sessions just for your needs! There will be a Culinary Skills Lab, sessions on promoting your program, and information on navigating the procurement puzzle. You can view all education session here as well as download a tracking tool that provides an easy way to keep up with your training hours during the conference.

Exploring the Exhibit Hall

The most exciting part of ANC for us at Meals Plus is the Exhibit Hall! This year there will be 880 booths showcasing culinary trends in food, beverage, supply, equipment, and service solutions. No matter what you’re looking for to grow your program, you can find it in the miles of aisles! While you’re there, be sure to stop to learn about how we can help turn your cafeteria into the Smartest Lunchroom. For digital menu solutions, visit School Nutrition and Fitness at book #1659. To learn more about our integrated cafeteria management solutions visit Meals Plus at booth #1065! Whether you’re a customer or not, if you are looking for new ways to improve your program, we’d love to chat with you!

Making Connections through Special Events

The fun doesn’t stop once you leave the educational sessions or the exhibit hall. There are even more events that offer a little something for everyone! If you’re a first-time attendee, you should definitely go to the First-Timers Session to guide you in the right direction before you get started. This year is all about networking, so be sure to attend the New Connections Reception on Monday. Once you’ve gained all of these new ideas and connections, celebrate at the closing event, Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil, an electrifying fusion of acrobatics and dance in honor of the King of Pop. Learn more about all of the special events offered at ANC here.

Take on ANC from your Smartphone!

ANC just went mobile! You can download SNA’s 2018 ANC mobile app to stay connected while on site. You can build your own agenda, evaluate education sessions, navigate the conference center, message other attendees and join discussion groups, and receive notifications on schedule changes and program alerts. The app can be downloaded on iTunes or Google Play.

Experiencing Las Vegas Outside of the Conference Doors

Even though our first priority at ANC is to learn and network, it’s also an exciting opportunity to experience Sin City! Check out this list for some of the Best Things to Do in Las Vegas. You may also want to check out SNA’s list of inexpensive suggestions for exploring Vegas.

We are so excited to see you in Vegas! We hope you gain valuable information to step up your lunch program. Don’t forget to stop by booth #1065 to visit Meals Plus and booth #1659 to visit School Nutrition and Fitness in the exhibit hall July 10-12. Learn more information about ANC 2018 here.

Innovation Brewing to Increase High School Milk and Breakfast Sales

In honor of National Dairy Month, we’re sharing how these high schools increased milk sales and breakfast participation while getting students involved! 

Getting students to drink milk can often be a challenge, especially at the high school level. June is National Dairy Month, so it is the perfect time to implement creative strategies to increase milk sales. A rising trend among high schools is starting a coffee cart in order to increase milk sales and overall breakfast participation. Instead of making a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks before school for coffee and breakfast items, students can choose a more nutritious option conveniently located on campus.

Right outside of Cleveland, OH, the Mayfield High School Student Council led an initiative to bring “Cat’s Coffee Bar” to campus. With the help of the Mayfield School Service Department, the school was offered a $5,000 grant from the American Dairy Association. Students can choose from four 12-ounce coffee choices for $2.00 or $1.00 with a breakfast purchase. Soy milk and seasonal flavor are also available. All items sold at these coffee bars must meet USDA school meal and Smart Snack guidelines. These guidelines regulate the amount of milk, sugar, and espresso allowed as well as beverage sizes.

Cat’s Coffee Bar opened at the end of January 2017 and in just four months the cart served 229 gallons more milk than over the same time period last year. Also in that time period, 1,554 more breakfasts were sold than the previous year—that’s 14 more breakfasts per day!

The benefits of coffee carts go beyond sales. Like Mayfield, many coffee carts are run by the student council or business classes and clubs. For example at Fairmont High in Kettering, OH, Marketing Club Students operate the coffee bar in exchange for a stipend to the Marketing Fund and Digital Design students created the logo for their, “Korner Café.”

Whether you’re starting your own coffee stand or another grab-and-go breakfast program, the biggest lesson we can learn from Mayfield and Fairmont is that involving students in creative nutrition programs can yield amazing results!

Grants for these programs can be obtained from various sources including the America Dairy Association, Dairy MAX, and Statewide dairy councils. Learn about more ways to promote milk sales during National Dairy month here!

Child Nutrition and Psychology Combine for Smarter Lunchrooms

What do psychologists at Cornell University and Child Nutrition Directors have in common? They both want to figure out how to help students make healthier choices in the cafeteria!

Cynthia Sevier, the School Nutrition Operations Consultant for Meals Plus, at the 2018 Smarter Lunchrooms Symposium with a Meals Plus customer at Cornell University in early May.

In 2009 Cornell’s Food & Brands Lab created the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement. These studies examine how social and environmental elements of a cafeteria can influence students’ food selection and consumption. In other words, Smarter Lunchrooms provides low or no cost strategies to ‘nudge’ students to choose healthier foods while also decreasing waste, increasing participation, and increasing revenue. Some of these strategies include moving healthy food options to easy to reach, high-traffic areas, labeling healthy meals with fun, creative names, and representing white milk as at least 1/3 of all milk on display.

Earlier this month, Cynthia Sevier, School Nutrition Operations Consultant for Meals Plus, attended the Smarter Lunchrooms Symposium hosted by Cornell University. At the symposium, Cynthia learned about how the six principles of behavioral economics apply to food psychology. She also heard about research on Smarter Lunchrooms conducted in Florida, Georgia. Montana, and Nigeria. As a former Child Nutrition Director and certified School Nutrition Specialist, Cynthia said that the Smarter Lunchrooms Symposium was, “a great environment to learn about encouraging students to make healthy food choices.”

For more information and resources on making your cafeteria smarter, visit Smarter Lunchrooms Movement online. See how Meals Plus can help you plan smart options for your students with the menu planning and nutrient analysis solutions!


Fuel Up to Play 60 Promotes School Breakfast

The School Nutrition Association and National Dairy Council have teamed up with NFL Play 60 to enhance school nutrition programs.  Play 60 encourages kids to get a healthy amount of exercise each day, and promotes an active lifestyle.  The program is also helping schools promote their breakfast and lunch programs.  New features include the ‘Grab and Go’ breakfast campaign that allows more children access to a healthy breakfast.  According to WebMD, eating a regular breakfast will improve concentration, strength, and most pertinent to school nutrition programs, help maintain an individual’s healthy weight.
Fuel up to Play 60Another approach being taken is the ‘Breakfast in the Classroom’ initiative.  Experts are convinced that setting aside a few minutes in the beginning of the day will lead to a more productive rest of the day.  This approach is projected to improve productivity, student energy, and first period punctuality.

Fuel Up to Play 60 is in its early stages, and you could be the first to get it implemented in your school system!  Click here for an application for NFL Play 60 funding, but hurry!  The deadline to sign up is November 1st.


New Standard Eliminates Unhealthy School Snacks

Students across the country will have to say goodbye to unhealthy foods sold in school. On June 27th, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standard. The new regulation requires that only wholesome food options are provided in cafeterias, vending machines, and any other locations in schools where food is sold.

Smart Snacks in School has created guidelines that eliminate any snack that exceeds specific calorie, sodium, fat and sugar limits. Products such as candy, cookies, potato chips, and soda will have to be replaced with items such as granola bars, fruit cups and other healthier options like natural whey proteinSmart Snacks in School

The standard was created under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that was established in 2010. Students will still be allowed to bring bagged lunches to school and classrooms as the standards only applies to school-sold food items. Schools as well as food and beverage companies will have until the end of next school year to make the necessary adjustments that adhere to the new standard.

At Meals Plus, we are excited to witness another significant stride towards healthier food in school lunchrooms! For more details about the Smart Snacks in School standard, visit


SNA Announces New CEO

Earlier this year, the School Nutrition Association (SNA) announced exciting news that it had appointed its new chief executive officer, Patricia Montague. Montague, who has already dedicated 20 years to the organization, served as the COO for the previous nine years before stepping into the role of acting CEO during the vacancy period. She will continue leading the organization and its efforts to ensure the quality of school meal programs throughout the nation.

“Patti has demonstrated that her experience, her skills and her commitment to SNA throughout her tenure have made her uniquely qualified to lead SNA,” stated Sandra Ford, President of the SNA.

Congratulations to Ms. Montague from all of us at Meals Plus and the SNA community! To find out more about the organization, visit the School Nutrition Association website.


Meat/Meat Alternate and Grain Maximums Now More Flexible

Since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed and the USDA implemented new final rule standards, food service directors across the country were required to meet daily and weekly minimums and maximums for meal components. This has proved particularly challenging for the Grain and Meat/Meat Alternate components, so earlier this month the USDA released a statement lifting the maximums on those meal components.

As long as the daily and weekly minimums are being met for these components and you are already certified as eligible to the 6 cent reimbursement, there is no need for your School Food Authority to be recertified by a state agency.

For more information, see the official USDA Memo.

Ensuring your meals are meeting the meal pattern requirements doesn’t have to cause headaches! Check out the Meals Plus Menu Planning and Nutrient Analysis software programs that can make your job of managing school meals much easier.


New Meal Pattern Requirements Prompt Schools to Think Outside the Box

Now that the 2012-2013 school year is in full-swing, school food service staff across the country are seeing first-hand how the new meal pattern requirements are playing out with their students. Because children are now required to have more fruits, vegetables, dark greens and legumes during the week, child nutrition directors are concerned with the students actually consuming their food rather than creating “healthy trash cans”. A recent article from the Associated Press highlighted the efforts being made to encourage consumption.

A district in Hopkins, Minnesota is recruiting “food coaches” to travel to elementary schools and give out free samples of fruits and vegetables. For older-age students, “food coaches” take the form of other students such as upperclassmen or student athletes. A Colorado State University study showed students ate more of the healthier items when they ate after recess rather than before. Packaging and labeling also has an effect, as students are more apt to choose the healthier options in colorful containers and original names. For instance, corn consumption went up in a Colorado school when it was colorfully labeled “mellow yellow corn” rather than simply “corn”.

Impulse buys are not just effective for a grocery store checkout lines – “grab and go” foods by cash registers increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Schools have even been creative with contest and challenges that promote healthy eating and generate buzz for the students.

How have you increased healthy food consumption in your school? Tell us about it and you could be featured in our next blog post!



Latest Edition of Eligibility Manual for School Meals Released

The Child Nutrition division of the USDA released the latest version of Eligibility Manual for School Meals last month. This version includes clarifications necessary since the previous version in October 2011 and has two major changes: an emphasis on how to meet eligibility requirements when dealing with families with limited English proficiency and the removal of temporary approvals.

For the next three months, a highlighted version of the manual is available that makes it easy to see the changes made. After that, only an un-highlighted version will be available. There are lots of useful documents available on the USDA site; click to see even more USDA resources in regards to child nutrition!


National Summer Food Service Program Kickoff Week (June 11 – 15)

June 11-15, 2012 is the USDA’s 2nd Annual National Summer Food Service Program Kickoff Week. With most schools out for the summer break, the USDA is using the opportunity to highlight their Summer Food Service Program which helps provide healthy meals to low-income students during the summer months. And because with so many students that qualify for free or reduced lunches, the meals they receive in the school cafeteria are the most nutritious meals they receive, summer meal programs are necessary.

If you’re interested in helping to spread the word about the program, the USDA has plenty of ways for you to get involved. You can share the number for the USDA’s National Hunger Hotline, which offers information on where meal sites are located in your area. They can be reached at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE. They also offer SFSP Public Service Announcements that you can give to your local radio station and they will play them for free.

They also offer customizable templates for print materials such as fliers, brochures, doorhangers and more.

Follow the USDA blog or @USDANutrition on Twitter for more information.

June is also National Hunger Awareness Month and in addition to Nourish NC and the USDA Summer Food Service Program, we’d like to feature other summer meal programs across the country. Do you have a similar program in your area? Tell us about it!