10 Steps to Start the Year Strong (Including a FREE Printable Back-to-School Checklist)

Summer is quickly coming to a close. Soon a rush of hungry students will be in your line waiting for a nutritious and delicious meal in a timely manner. Are you ready? The back-to-school season can be stressful and exciting. At Meals Plus we want to make it as easy as possible for you to get your lunchline moving again! The following tips are a guideline for starting the year off right. We have even provided a FREE printable checklist for your convenience.

1.  Make sure your point of sale and all hardware are up and running.

It is highly recommended that you turn your machines on and ensure they’re running two weeks prior to starting service. By getting a jump start on this you can arrange necessary repairs or replacements if needed. Also be sure to verify all of your external hardware is in shape. Test printers, keypads, scanners, etc. to ensure no upgrades need to be made before the first day of school.

2.  Make sure your Meals Plus software is ready to go.

There are a few simple steps for getting your system set up for the new year. In Meals Plus, verify your current fiscal year. Verify ‘Database Version’ and ‘Auto Update’ status in Control File. Review User Group and User Setup where you can add new cashiers and assign sites and items as needed.

3.  Add new students and delete non-current students.

Import students for the new fiscal year by manually importing a student file or set up Auto Transfer Settings for automatic nightly imports. If your system integrates with PowerShools, VendorLink, or Aeries, click the ‘Enable PowerSchool/VendorLink/Aeries Integration’ box under System Management > Administration > Auto Transfer Settings > PowerSchool/ VendorLink /Aeries tab. If we host your database, contact Meals Plus Support and use nightly imports. To delete students who have graduated or transferred districts, run ‘Delete Non-Current Students’ at least 90 days AFTER the beginning of the school year to remove old student accounts. After doing this you will want to Archive POS History for previous fiscal years.

4.  Verify Free & Reduced Eligibility and Manage Applications.

Start by downloading income brackets for the new fiscal year. Then, set the ‘Meal Benefit Expiration Date’, the ‘New App/Modifier App’, and the ‘Student Transfer from EP or Pov. 2 Site’ grace periods for all sites. Review and modify ‘Letter Setup’ and ‘Language Setup’ as needed and set up the ‘Verification Configuration’ screen. Finally, run the ‘Direct Certification/Exempt’ utility after a new student import to identify direct certified students.

5.  Update Inventory.

Make sure your inventory is up-to-date by importing or creating new items, reviewing packaging, updating current bid prices, and updating vendor information as needed. Review and update Account Categories and Groups as needed.

6.  Update employee data and set up time clock.

Have you had any new hires or employees leave your district? Start updating employee data by setting up a new School Calendar for the new school year. Review and edit as needed your Leave Setup, Job Setup, Certification Class Setup, and Request Setup. Add new employees and review and edit current employee data as needed.

7.  Update Menus.

Are you spicing things up this year with some new recipes? After creating a new School Calendar for the new year, review and update ingredients, recipes, reimbursable meals, and cycle menus. Calculate costs of ingredients when used in recipes and usage of inventory items by going to Inventory > Administration > Item Maintenance > Menu Costing.

8.  Make sure K12PaymentCenter and Lunch Application are set up.

If you use K12PaymentCenter for online payments you will want to verify that the Meals Plus service is running. Check the EMS log for errors and the Payment Reports for ‘unapplied payments’. If you use LunchApplication.com be sure to review and edit ‘District Info’, add and edit ‘Users’, and review and edit ‘Household Letter Setup’ as needed. If you disabled Lunch Application for the summer, contact Meals Plus Support to enable LAP.

9.  Plan program promotions for the year.

With all the things Nutrition Directors must worry about throughout the year, promotions often get put on the back burner. Promoting your program is essential to increase participation. Starting now and looking ahead to the rest of the year is a great way to get a jump on promoting your program. To learn more about promoting your school nutrition program, request to download the whitepapers, 101 Ways to Increase Participation and The 5 P’s of Promoting Your School Meal Program.

10.  Contact Meals Plus Support if you need help!

At Meals Plus we understand that the beginning of the school year can be hectic. We would like to help make it as easy as possible. Login to the Meals Plus Support site to access documents, webinars, and videos to guide you. We are also always available to help Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 7:00 pm. Just give us a call at 800-541-8999 and you will speak to a real person who understands your issues and is excited to help work through it.

Here at Meals Plus, we are so excited to start a new school year with you! For your convenience, we have provided a FREE printable Back-to-School Checklist to help you start the year strong! If you’re looking to start the year with a new cafeteria management system, request a free demo now and discover why thousands of school districts trust Meals Plus to keep their lunchlines moving!

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.

What Happens When Your Child Nutrition Server Crashes?

Hello – It’s Matt Kennedy from Meals Plus! Last week, we assisted a district whose server crashed – what a nightmare. They tried to restore a recent backup, but the backups were corrupt! The most recent usable backup they had was from October of last year – they lost months of business. It got me thinking about how that would affect other districts…

child nutrition softwareHow would you cope if your server crashed? If you had Meals Plus child nutrition software running your CN program, we could also take the worry out of server backups and maintenance! You could eliminate the cost and hassle of purchasing and maintaining a server with our database hosting.

Did You Know?

  • Every week 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States
  • 25 million Windows computers crash each day

With the Meals Plus Hosting Service you get 99.99% guaranteed uptime and fast disaster recovery service ensuring that your data is available and safe.

Let me know if you‘d like to talk further about our Hosting Service for all these Meals Plus components: Point of Sale, Free & Reduced, online applications, online meal payments and school fees, Inventory Management, Menu Planning.  Our suite of products, backed by award-winning customer support, is helping large and small child nutrition programs in 40 states.

Email me or contact me here to find out more.  I’m here to serve you!

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[WATCH] Staying Organized with the My Meals Plus Dashboard

The My Meals Plus Dashboard helps you stay on top of your to-do list by allowing you to bookmark the features you use most in the Meals Plus school cafeteria software system. See how you can make the most out of your software system with My Meals Plus!

For more information on the Meals Plus software system, contact us today online or at 1-800-541-8999!

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Tips from Our Child Nutrition Operations Consultant: Promoting Your School Meal Program

In our white paper, “The 5 P’s of Promoting Your School Meal Program,” Child Nutrition Operations Consultant Cynthia Sevier, SNS, examines how you can promote your child nutrition program, and shares real-life experiences in school districts across the country. “The 5 P’s” are Product, Placement, Promotion, Price and People. Here is an excerpt of the white paper illustrating how you can implement “Promotion” in your program:

Social media is a vast, untapped resource for school nutrition programs and is a direct participation_in_the_cafeteriaconnection between our students and parents. It takes time and commitment but can be a vehicle to reach students and parents with information about the program. Check with your school board policies concerning the use of social media before beginning.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs are being used by students and parents, and can be very valuable in telling your story. Perception doesn’t always equal reality and this becomes apparent with some of the postings. By sharing your story, you are communicating who you are and what you are capable of doing. You are earning your customers attention rather than “buying” it. Why not take the opportunity to answer questions and educate our stakeholders?

Information that is posted must be current and relevant to create and keep interest.

To read more about marketing your school meal program, download your free copy of “The 5 P’s of Promoting Your School Meal Program.

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Welcome to Meals Plus!

We’d like to welcome the following school districts to the Meals Plus Family! To hear what Meals Plus Customers across the country think of our school cafeteria software system, check out our case studies and testimonials.

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Keep Track of Finances with Financial & Statistical Software

Meals Plus makes managing financial and statistical facets of your school cafeterias easy with Financial and Statistical management software. With up-to-date expense information, you can analyze the financial health for the district or an individual school. You can even set performance goals for individual schools!

Email us or call 1-800-541-8999 for more information!

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Centralize Your District’s Data with Accountability Software

Meals Plus’ child nutrition accountability software centralizes all of your district’s data with ease. It provides real-time access to district-wide and school-by-school reports.  The software also allows you to update cafeteria point of sale pricing from the Central Office.

Request a free cafeteria software trial or call 1-800-541-8999 for more information!Centralized_school_data

Meals Plus Customer Support Scores Nearly Perfect in 2013

2013 was another successful year for Meals Plus customers across the country and for the Meals Plus Technical Support Team! And in addition to our bi-annual customer satisfaction surveys, we randomly survey Meals Plus customers after they call into our help desk. Below are that survey’s results for 2013 on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being ‘very satisfied’.

How would you rate:

  • The courtesy of the analyst? 5
  • The technical skills/knowledge of the analyst? 4.9
  • The timeliness of the service provided? 4.9
  • The quality of the service provided? 4.9
  • The overall service experience? 4.9

In addition to these near perfect numbers, Meals Plus’ average time to answer calls last year was 92 seconds, and first call resolution was just above 93%. Meals Plus customers appreciate that if they ever have an issue, they are just a phone call away from speaking with an actual person that is committed to solving your issue quickly.  And if you have a pleasant call with one of these five star courtesy rated staff members, you can put the face to the name right here!Local_management_for_k-12_cafeterias