3 Ways to Reduce End-of-Year Lunch Debt

At the end of the school year, uncollected lunch debt can put schools in a difficult situation. The balance between feeding hungry students and maintaining financial stability while also following district guidelines is crucial. Luckily, there are ways to help reduce this problem. Following these guidelines along with the help of Meals Plus can help you end your school year right.

1.  Make sure eligible students take advantage of free and reduced-price meals.

The start of the school year can strongly impact how your cafeteria finishes out the year. Communication with parents is crucial, and the sooner you can start the better! Create a summer outreach plan to encourage early application submission so kids have reimbursable meals from the first day of school. Moving this process online can also increase completed applications while making the processing easier for schools. With LunchApplication the free and reduced application process is easy and accessible for parents while integrating with the Meals Plus Free and Reduced program to accurately update eligibility.

2.  Encourage meal prepayment with alternative methods.

Another online solution for optimizing parent accessibility is offering an online payment system. With K12PaymentCenter, the process of loading money onto student accounts is simplified by allowing credit and debit card payments whenever they want. This automatically integrates with the Meals Plus POS so balance and activity are always updated.

3.  Remind parents when money is owed.

Being proactive in keeping parents informed about their student’s account can make a huge difference in decreasing outstanding balances. K12PaymentCenter not only allows parents to view account balances and what students are buying but also sends balance notifications via email and text, so they are always in the loop. Soon parents will even be able to do all of this from the convenience of their smartphone. Be on the lookout soon for K12PaymentCenter to hit the app store!

The key to reducing unpaid meal charges is being proactive, and communicating clearly. With Meals Plus, these steps can be taken in a simple, automated way making things easier for parents and cafeteria staff.  For more guidelines on overcoming the unpaid meal challenge, check out the USDA Food and Nutrition Service guide.

Spice Up National School Lunch Week- Buffalo Style!

This week is National School Lunch Week!

For NSLW 2016, we are featuring recipes from our Meals Plus Customer Cookbook, which will be available to download this fall. This cookbook will feature 50+ delicious school meal recipes submitted by Meals Plus Customers and school meal recipes using USDA Foods. And best of all – every Meals Plus Customer receives one free copy! Our final featured recipe is Buffalo Chicken Flatbread.

Ingredients:
1 each, 2oz. – flatbread, WW
1 tsp. – fat free Ranch dressing, bulk
1 oz. – diced chicken
1 oz. – mozzarella, shredded, partly skimmed cheese
1/4 tsp. – vegetable oil
1 tbsp. – hot sauce, RS

buffaloDirections:
1. Thaw flatbread on lined sheet pan(s). Lightly brush top of thawed flatbread with oil.
2. Spread ranch dressing evenly over entire flatbread. Weigh out 1 oz. of cheese and spread evenly over the ranch dressing, spreading all of the way to the edges.
3. Weigh out 1 oz. of thawed diced chicken. Toss chicken with hot sauce, coating entirely. Spread chicken evenly over the cheese.
4. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 5-7 minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt and the chicken to reach an internal temperature of 165°F for 15 seconds. Hold for hot service at 135° or higher.
CCP: Heat to 165° F or higher for at least 15 seconds
CCP: Hold at 135° F or higher.

buffalo2Nutrients per serving:
Calories – 279
Chol (mg) – 36.79
Sodium (mg) – 750.45
Fiber (gm) – 2.71
Iron (mg) – 1.39
Calc (mg) – 765.12
Vit A (IU) – 403.50
Vit C (mg) – 3.67
Protein (gm) – 20.75
Carb (gm) – 28.35
Tot Fat (gm) – 8.84
Sat Fat (gm) – 3.03
Sugars (gm) – 2.50
Trans Fat (gm) – 0.000*

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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.

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National Food Service Employee Day – Tuesday, September 25th

Next week is National Food Service Employee Day and we want to help you show your appreciation for your school cafeteria staff! Email us and tell us about a cafeteria staff member of your choice (or about an entire staff – whichever you prefer!) and we will highlight them on our website.

Feel free to include a picture of them; we’ll even share their story on Facebook and Twitter!

For more resources and ideas on how to recognize your cafeteria staff this Food Service Employee Day, check out the USDA website.

So mark your calendars for Tuesday, September 25th and email us your entries today to have your cafeteria staff featured here on our website!

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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!

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Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program comes to Brunswick County Schools

fresh fruit and vegetable program in durham, ncTina Ward has been campaigning to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables to her students in her county, and it looks like her hard work is paying off. Earlier this year, the Director of Child Nutrition for the Brunswick County Schools in North Carolina attended an event at UNC-Wilmington hosted by Feast DownEast, who works to connect local farmers and businesses. Finding Good Agricultural Practices certified farmers is especially important for schools, as they are the only farmers allowed to supply schools with fresh foods. Ward struggles with receiving enough produce for all of her students but the burden was recently lightened. A recent article from WECT announced five Brunswick County elementary schools have been chosen to participate in the USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Ward looks forward to introducing her students to new foods that they might not typically have access to. We are truly proud to have Tina Ward as a member of the Meals Plus Family!

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