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!

Meals Plus Help Desk Statistics: October 2017

Meals Plus continues to provide top-notch customer service – and fast!

Each month, Meals Plus generates random surveys after technical support calls to ensure our customers have the best support experience possible.

Here are the results of October 2017’s surveys, and some highlights from the month:

  • The average time to answer a support call was only 1 minute 31 seconds.
  • The average talk time with a customer was only 10 minute and 14 seconds.

Thank you to the Meals Plus Team for their hard work and providing the best customer support in K-12 cafeteria software!

How Meals Plus POS Software Helps Prevent Unpaid Lunch Debt

Hello, Meals Plus Matt here!

A recent article in USA Today featured a lucky district that had $13,250 of lunch debt paid off by an anonymous donor. Wouldn’t that be nice?! Unpaid lunch debt is a headache for many districts, and was even featured in a FSD Magazine article, ‘Dealing With Delinquency.’ So you might be interested in how the Meals Plus Point of Sale program can help you recoup some of that money. Reaching parents can be a challenge, so we included the ability to email low balance letters right from the Point of Sale program. Eliminate the time, paper and costs associated with sending a letter home and email instead – fast, efficient, and effective!

Email me or contact me here to learn how Meals Plus can help you recoup lost lunch money and even cut costs at your district. I’m here to serve you!

Oh, and I hope to see you at ANC in Atlanta this summer! There will be so much going on at the Meals Plus booth…more details to follow!

Where’s Graham? At a Go-Live for Fullerton Joint Union HS District (CA)

Earlier this month, Graham traveled with Meals Plus Technical Account Specialist Tye to Fullerton, CA for his first new customer implementation. He attended Tye’s K-12 cafeteria point of sale training sessions and was at the official Go-Live in their school cafeterias. Chris Trimble, Director of Food Services at Fullerton Joint Union High School District (CA) said, “Tye was very professional and very nice. Thanks for a great roll out!”Cafeteria_k12_solutions

Graham is Meals Plus. He enjoys visiting school cafeterias, attending child nutrition conferences, keeping up with child nutrition industry news and traveling. If you’d like Graham to come visit your school district, email him and he will make travel plans to see you!                               

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Laurel School District (DE) Saves 10 Hours a Week after Implementing Meals Plus Menu Planning Software

Prior to 2014, Nancy Mears, Director of School Nutrition for Laurel School District in Delaware, was struggling with an outdated and non-functional cafeteria software system. Her staff was working with spreadsheets, paper forms and systems that weren’t integrated. What she needed was a system that was web-enabled, accessible from any computer in the district (including the district office) and had all of the necessary components to run her department. That’s where Meals Plus came in.Laurel School District

Meals Plus’ school cafeteria management system included everything she needed: a single, centralized database with real-time updates, an online payment website for parents, and a robust software suite. Since implementing Meals Plus, Nancy and her staff are able to better manage their inventories, meal production records, student allergies and special diets. Just by using Meals Plus Menus, Nancy and her team have saved at least ten hours of work per week!

The biggest improvement they have noticed since implementing Meals Plus is their district’s accountability. They can view everything in one central location – from their Meals Plus login – without referencing separate spreadsheets or reviewing paper copies. Nancy looks forward to learning more about the software and how it will continue to save them time and improve their operations.

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Let’s Taco ‘Bout National School Lunch Week!

This week is National School Lunch Week!

To celebrate NSLW 2015, we are sharing recipes from our upcoming Meals Plus Customer Cookbook. This cookbook features over 50 delicious school meal recipes and is a compilation of recipes from Meals Plus Customers and school meal recipes using USDA Foods. And best of all – every Meals Plus Customer receives one free copy! Additional copies will be available for sale. Our first featured recipe is Turkey Taco Salad with Tortilla Scoops and was submitted by Charleston County School District (SC).

Turkey Taco Salad with Tortilla Scoops

Ingredients:
4-1/2 oz. potatoes, sweet, fresh
15-1/2 oz. beans, pinto; fancy canned in brine, 6/#10
1 lb. + 8 oz. turkey, ground 90/10 raw frozen local ingredients
1 tsp. ground oregano, dried
1 tbsp. spice, chili powder, mild season
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt, table, iodized
15-1/2 oz. petite diced tomatoes
8 pouches of corn chips, tortilla, baked, bowl-shaped SS scoop

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Directions:

  1. Rinse, peel and grate sweet potato.
  2. In a colander, drain pinto beans.
  3. Coat a large skillet with a non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Heat over medium high heat.
  5. Add turkey and brown for 8-10 minutes. CCP: Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F for at least 15 seconds.
  6. Add grated sweet potato, pinto beans, canned tomatoes, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and black pepper.
  7. Stir well. CCP: Heat to 155°F for at least 15 seconds.
  8. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until, about 20 minutes.
  9. Portion 4 oz. of cooked meat mixture to each tray. Serve with 1 bag of tortilla scoops, shredded romaine and cheddar cheese topping. CCP: Hold for hot service at 135°F or higher.

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Nutrients per serving:
Calories – 312.074
Chol. (mg) – 91.123*
Sodium (mg) – 643.678
Fiber (gm) – 643.678
Iron (mg) – 3.563
Calc. (mg) – 79.424*
Vit. A (IU) – 3811.161*
Vit. C (mg) – 9.830*
Protein (gm) – 18.863
Carb (gm) – 34.785
Tot. Fat (gm) – 10.336
Sat. Fat (gm) – 2.278*
Sugars (gm) – 1.846
Trans. Fat (gm) – 0.000*

Stay tuned to our blog this week for more school meal recipes and click here for the School Nutrition Association’s NSLW 2015 Toolkit, which is filled with handouts, tips to celebrate NSLW and a photo contest!

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