Rising Above the Everyday Challenges
When planning menus, school nutrition professionals must:
- Understand and abide by school meal regulations, including complex nutrition standards
- Ensure cafeterias have the necessary equipment and trained staff to prepare and safely serve each item to hundreds of students each lunch period;
- Meet the taste preferences of increasingly diverse student bodies;
- Stay on budget!
In the Cafeteria
School nutrition professionals who work at the "point of service" are on the frontlines of serving healthy school meals and encouraging students to embrace nutritious choices. These professionals take on a number of challenges and responsibilities including:
- Short lunch periods: Over-crowded schools and short lunch periods leave students with limited time to select and eat their meals. Cafeteria staff work hard to have meals plated in advance or ready for quick service to minimize students' time waiting in line.
- Food allergies: As more students suffer from food allergies, school nutrition professionals must identify potential allergens and protect affected children as they select their meals. SNA’s The State of School Nutrition 2018 survey found that schools are offering more options, such as gluten-free foods, for students with allergies and intolerances.
- Strict food safety standards: School meal programs are required to implement a school food-safety program based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) principles and receive two required health/safety inspections for each school kitchen.
- Identifying the reimbursable meal: Cashiers must ensure each student selects enough items for their meal to be eligible for a federal reimbursement. Every student must take a fruit or vegetable with their lunch and have a minimum of three meal components on their tray. Cashiers must carefully track the number of meals served and account for a la carte purchases. Speed is of the essence to prevent line delays!
- Encouraging students to take healthier options: Cafeteria staff work hard to make healthy school meals appealing to students and the cafeteria a warm and welcoming environment. Oftentimes, staff members are heard encouraging students to try their fruits and vegetables, and many students say the biggest smiles they see all day are in the lunch line.
See Our School Nutrition Professionals
Visit our Member Profiles to find out what great things our members have been doing!
Roles & Responsibilities
School Foodservice/Nutrition Directors
Similar titles include Executive Director, Supervisor, Coordinator
In most school districts, the foodservice/nutrition director oversees all aspects of foodservice in all schools or sites, administering the school meal program in accordance to local, state and federal policies. The director reports to the superintendent, and in some districts, the director may act as an assistant superintendent with responsibilities unrelated to foodservice.
School Foodservice/Nutrition Supervisor
Similar titles include Assistant Director, Field Manager, Specialist, Dietitian, Executive Chef
Larger school districts that require greater central management may have supervisory staff who support the director. These individuals may oversee procurement, financial administration, menu planning, recipe development, nutrition education, wellness coordination, catering/vending operations, production facility or warehouse management, training coordination or more. Supervisors may also oversee several individual service sites.
School Foodservice/Nutrition Manager/Assistant Manager
Similar titles include Head Cook, Lead
Managers lead the day-to-day operations at an individual school or feeding site. Foodservice managers must ensure high standards for safety/sanitation and meal quality. In addition, they supervise site employees, place food/supply orders, account for meal service and a la carte sales and ensure adequate inventory is available.
School Foodservice/Nutrition Employee
Similar titles include Assistant, Technician, Cook, Cashier
School foodservice employees in an individual school are responsible for the preparation and serving of all menu items. Additional responsibilities include cleaning and dishwashing, as well as the care of some equipment. Employees in cafeterias and kitchens include cooks, bakers, dishwashers and cashiers. School nutrition employees also may work at the district level as bookkeepers, secretaries, drivers and production/warehouse facility workers.