Celebrate School Nutrition (New Whitepaper with 13 FREE Seasonal Promotional Graphics!)

There are many responsibilities on the plate of a school nutrition or food services director. One task that often gets put on the back burner due to budget and time constraints is program promotion. There are many opportunities throughout the year to do something fun to increase participation. It’s beneficial to take advantage of holidays or upcoming events that students are excited about and applying them to your program so your students will also be excited about school meals.

Some examples of seasonal lunchroom promotions include:

  • Decorating your lunchline for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, and more!
  • Serving tailgate-themed food like hot dogs and hamburgers for the school’s homecoming game
  • Posting on social media photos of students enjoying milk on World School Milk Day (September 26th).

These are just a few of the many creative promotions you can plan around holidays or events to spice up your lunchroom and engage students. While planning these kinds of promotions may seem intimidating, Meals Plus provides you with all the tools you need to make it simple. You can learn more about seasonal promotions in our newest white paper, Celebrate School Nutrition: How to Promote Your Program Throughout the Year.

This white paper includes helpful information and ideas on planning seasonal promotions through menu planning, decorations, and social media. Also included are 13 FREE downloadable, printable graphics for just about every occasion! Whether you want to welcome students back to healthy eating at the beginning of the year or encourage nutritious meals around Thanksgiving, we have a graphic for you to print and hang in your lunchroom or use to digitally promote your program!

Click here to download the white paper now and start celebrating school nutrition in your lunchroom!

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.

Creative Strategies for a More Successful Summer Food Service Program

If your district is participating in a local Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), you know how important it is to provide nutritious meals even after the last day of school. There are many ways to increase participation in the program, including some out-of-the-box methods you may have never considered. These creative tips can help you brainstorm how to best promote your SFSP this summer.

Host fun events! Kick off your program with a fun event to engage sponsors, partners, families, and the community. You could host a health fair, a group exercise class, contests, music and more! Keep the events going throughout the year to re-engage the community, as site attendance tends to drop off in early July. Take a look at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service resources for information on how to bring your events to life!

Know your audience! Cater to the unique tastes of younger children, teens, and everyone in between. If your program allows, it may be beneficial to consider serving different age groups at different times in different ways. Targeting teens can be a challenge, so try taking your promotions to social media, plan events targeted towards teens, and provide volunteer or job opportunities to really get older students involved.

Go farm fresh with locally sourced fruits and vegetables! Did you know SFSP aligns well with a lot of peak growing seasons?  You can help support local growers while providing the very best for the children you serve! The USDA provides resources for incorporating local food into your SFSP menu.

Take your meals mobile! Expand your audience by hitting the road with your program. Consider a bus or food truck to bring summer feeding to the customer. Many programs are moving towards food trucks, for example, New Haven, Connecticut served more than 700 meals in their first week with their food truck on the road!

Partner with summer camps! Local summer camps are often responsible for providing lunch for many kids at a time. By partnering with summer camps, they can offer nutritious meals for lunch at no cost, while you bring in a bus full of hungry kids to your SFSP!

Serve adults too! Often times parents, guardians, and other adults accompany children to the feeding sites. Offset some of your expenses by providing meals that also appeal to these adults. Additionally, serving adults can help boost family and community engagement, provide children with healthy role models, and expand your site’s impact on hunger and nutrition. Read more here about the USDA’s regulations on feeding adults.  

Check out the USDA-FNS’s Summer Meals Toolkit for more creative ideas and resources for bringing these strategies to life!

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!


The Meals Plus Team Goes to #ANC17: “Starting Non-Traditional Feeding Programs”

The Meals Plus Team got the most out of #ANC17 in Hotlanta last month by venturing outside of the Exhibit Hall! We each attended an Education Session to learn how we can help keep your lunchlines moving. This gave us a new appreciation for everything child nutrition professionals do to feed our nation’s children.

Margaret Eubank, Account Manager for Meals Plus, attended the “Starting Non-Traditional Feeding Programs” Education Session and these were her favorite takeaways from the session:

  • Summer Feeding Bus.  Cincinnati Public Schools introduced a Summer Feeding Bus for their schools. They took an old school bus, gutted it, added a generator, and were able to serve meals from the bus. The bus worked as a fully functioning kitchen, allowing them to feed 450 kids in about 10 minutes. They were also able to serve during field days or field trips and not lose participation during those events.
  • Vending Machines. Breakfast vending machines are an easy-to-implement alternative feeding program.
  • Golf Carts. Another simple concept was creating golf cart service to serve after school snacks at different sports’ practices and events. Because of this, after school event participation has increased. Pizza parties and turkey trots are excellent additional opportunities for child nutrition to serve at.
  • Small Businesses. Bettie Wiggins, who is the Officer of Nutrition Services for Houston ISD, made a great statement during her presentation. She said, “Treat your department like a small business and not a non-profit. Make money people, increase your revenue, and protect your business base. That’s the ‘why’ behind non-traditional feeding programs.”

The presentation for this and all of the #ANC17 Education Sessions are available on the  School Nutrition Association’s website. Click to view the presentation, “Starting Non-Traditional Feeding Programs.”

Feature Your Students’ Favorite Recipes in the 2017 Child Nutrition Cookbook

For the third year in a row, Meals Plus is collecting students’ favorite recipes from Meals Plus customers and child nutrition departments from across the country and compiling them into a child nutrition cookbook!

Each Meals Plus customer will receive one free copy of the cookbook, and an electronic copy will be available to download on our website in the Fall of 2017.

We invite you to be a part of the 2017 Child Nutrition Cookbook! Send the most popular recipes from your district that help increase participation to recipes@mealsplus.com and we will take care of the rest.

Click to download the 2015 and 2016 Meals Plus Customer Cookbooks.

Providing Relief for those Affected by Hurricane Matthew

This month, Hurricane Matthew caused great destruction and despair in the U.S. and the Caribbean. The storm is responsible for over 1,000 deaths, $7 billion dollars in damage, and those numbers continue to grow.

Photo: Getty Images, 2016 Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images, 2016 Getty Images

Although Hurricane Matthew has since dissipated offshore, the destruction from the storm continues to worsen, especially due to record flooding in North and South Carolina. Roads, homes and businesses have been severely damaged, schools are closed, people have been trapped in their homes or forced to evacuate, and many are still without power.

Some of the Meals Plus Family are among those affected, especially in the Carolinas, and we hope you will join us in donating to the American Red Cross to help fellow Meals Plus school districts. We hope the goodwill of those that are able to donate money, blood or platelets will help ease the suffering of Hurricane Matthew’s victims. Click here, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word MATTHEW to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Matthew.

School Nutrition Employee Week Spotlight: Pelham School District’s Nutrition Department (NH)

In honor of School Nutrition Employee Week (May 2-6, 2016), Meals Plus is featuring child nutrition teams from across the country. Pelham School District’s Nutrition Services Director Kelly Rambeau is celebrating her team this year, and here’s why:

“I would personally like to show my appreciation and gratitude to my staff in the Pelham Nutrition Department.  The work that you all do on a daily basis is so important to the students and staff in our district.  Thank you to you all for being such an amazing team!”


Top: Pelham School District Nutrition Staff with Miss Vegetable, who brings fruits and vegetable samples to the students every month. Bottom left: “Throwback Thursday Lunch Ladies” dressed up as old ladies and serving meals inspired by the meals that were served years ago. Bottom right: The nutrition staff hand out hot and spicy chicken samples.

Thank you for recognizing your school food service team, Kelly! You and your team are superstars in the Meals Plus Family.

 Would you like to acknowledge members of your cafeteria staff, not only during SNEW, but anytime of the year? Email us and we will feature their story!


Where’s Graham? Eating Breakfast in Bladen County Schools (NC)

free_nutritional_analysis_softwareGraham enjoyed eating breakfast with his friends at Bladen Lakes Primary School in Elizabethtown, NC. The students loved Graham visiting so much, they said they want to eat breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria more often. Now Graham is visiting all of the elementary schools in the district, encouraging students to eat tasty and healthy meals in the lunchroom. Thanks for letting Graham enjoy your delicious school meals with you, Bladen County Schools!

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!


Child Nutrition Cookbook from Meals Plus

cafeteria_management_systemsAs part of our mission to “Keep Your Lunchlines Moving,” and because we recognize that school nutrition professionals have some fantastic recipes, we published the Meals Plus Child Nutrition Cookbook.

The Meals Plus Child Nutrition Cookbook includes:
– Over 40 recipes, including favorites from Meals Plus Customers across the country and recipes using USDA Commodities
– Management tips from the Meals Plus White Paper Library
– Helpful USDA Conversion Charts
– And software “best practices” tips from the Meals Plus Help Desk

Click here to download a copy of the Meals Plus Child Nutrition Cookbook today!