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.

Are Enrollment Woes Giving You a Headache?

Hello,

This is Matt from Meals Plus. Keeping up with your enrollment and making sure it’s correct can be a headache. Along with all the other things you have to do every day, wouldn’t it be a bonus if you didn’t have to worry about it?

Meals Plus software has automated functions and reports to take the anxiety out of enrollments and withdrawals – it’s hands off so you can use that time on other tasks and we’ll even set it up for you!

We offer a full line of USDA approved programs including – Point of Sale, Free & Reduced, online applications, internet meal payments and school fees, Inventory Management, Menu Planning with Nutrient Analysis and much more…  Our suite of products, backed by award-winning customer support, is helping large and small nutrition programs in 40 states.

Whenever you have 10 minutes to talk, please Email me and we’ll set up a short appointment just to see if it makes sense to talk further.

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!

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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Meals Plus Recognized for Elite Customer Service and Support

Meals Plus has been ranked 23rd in the world for award-winning customer service, as determined by the HDI Customer Satisfaction Index. The Meals Plus Technical Account Specialist Team was awarded a spot on the 2015 HDI CSAT Elite 50 for overall satisfaction ratings provided by our customers over a 12-month period.

meals plus supportHDI is the world’s largest professional association and certification body for technical service and support professionals. The fifty support centers with the highest scores are part of the Elite 50, and the ranking within the top fifty is based off of the average of the year’s responses to the fifth question on the survey: “How satisfied are you with the overall service experience?”

“We are extremely proud of our team,” said Meals Plus Vice-President Jeff Flynn. “We are dedicated to providing the best service to our customers day in and day out, and are honored to be recognized by a worldwide organization like HDI.”

Congratulations to the Meals Plus Team!

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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

Meet the Meals Plus Development Team – Scott

K12 Nutritional AnalysisMeet the Meals Plus Team! Scott is the newest member of the Development Team that implements changes in our school lunchroom software to meet the needs of today’s K-12 child nutrition departments.

The Dish: How long have you been at Meals Plus?
Scott: Since October of 2012

TD: What duties and responsibilities does your position entail?
S: I write new code add features and fix bugs and issues in both Meals Plus and Lunchprepay.com our online school meal payment system.

TD: What aspects of your position do you enjoy the most?
S:The problem solving aspect of the job. Sometimes it is like detective work isolating a problem and finding a solution. It is very rewarding when you fix something or add a useful feature.

TD: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
S: I enjoy woodworking.

TD: What was your favorite lunch when you were in school?
S: Pizza.

Click here to meet the rest of the Meals Plus Team!

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SNEW Spotlight: Vi Marriot

In recognition of School Nutrition Employee Week (May 7-11, 2012), we would like to highlight an exceptional lunchroom employee from Onslow County (NC) School District!

Vi Marriot has been doing an outstanding job at Bell Fork Elementary in Jacksonville, NC for 18 years. She works with a new staff will limited experience and still operates on 24+ meals per labor hour daily! Vi’s kitchen serves 3,188 breakfasts and 5,679 lunches monthly and consistently maintains a 101 rating on each health inspection. She attends all professional development workshops, willingly implements the tools for a highly successful operation and is a key member of the Bell Fork Cafeteria Staff!

Want to acknowledge members of your lunchroom staff? Email us and we will share their story!

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School Technology Directors Agree – Meals Plus Keeps the Lunchline Moving

In our most recent customer satisfaction survey, the results confirmed that the technology department’s vote counts a lot when choosing a cafeteria software program. And we are proud to announce that 100% of IT directors that took our survey would recommend Meals Plus to another school district.

school cafeteria softwareIf you’re interested in upgrading your software, share our system requirements and technical specifications with your IT department. They will quickly see the advantages of Meals Plus, including working on a centralized server.  To see how you can reduce technology issues by as much as 95%, contact our sales team today via email at sales@mealsplus.com or call us directly at 1-800-541-8999!

“[My favorite part of Meals plus is] the centralized server that we are using through Meals Plus. I now have the capability to view transactions from my desk. When free and reduced applications are completed and updated the information is immediately posted to the schools.” – Robin Taylor, Child Nutrition Director at Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Schools, NC

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