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16 Unexpected Tools to Help Your K-12 School Nutrition Program Thrive

Managing the nutrition program for a K-12 school is the ultimate test of balance. Every day, you feed hundreds of children while also planning menus, managing inventory, and keeping an eye on budgets and nutrition guidelines. 

In addition, it’s always in the back of your mind to be working on ways to increase student participation, reduce food waste, and eliminate school meal debt from your program. It’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed. 

Luckily, there’s technology that can help manage your day-to-day while also chipping away at long-term initiatives like mixing up your menu to offer new, healthier menu items. 

There is a whole world full of cloud-based tools built specifically to help organizations with planning and communication — no matter what industry you’re in. They’re easier to use than you think, and can be a great way to help you stay organized and on task. 

Here are 16 unexpected tools to help you and your K-12 nutrition program thrive.

Tools That Help You Collaborate with Your K-12 School Nutrition Program Team

Working on a new menu plan and need to share it with your team? Collaboration with staff and leadership has never been so easy. Here are some tools to help you collaborate more effectively.

Google Docs & Sheets

Create recipe documents and budget tracking spreadsheets using Google and never lose your work again. Google Docs and Sheets are in the cloud and are constantly auto-saving, so if you walk away you don’t need to worry about saving your work. Plus, multiple users can work together in a Google Doc or Sheet at the same time, no matter where they are. And, these tools are completely free; All you need is a Google account.

Google Drive

Store files like your documents and spreadsheets in an organized folder structure in Google Drive. Easily share files with others for collaboration, and set permissions such as ‘View Only’ or give collaborators complete edit access. Again, all you need is a Google account and you’re allotted a whopping 15 GB of free storage space. 

Tools That Help You Plan & Stay Organized

With so many moving pieces in your program, it’s nearly impossible to keep everything front of mind at the same time. With these tools that help you organize and plan ahead, you don’t have to.

Google Calendar

Using the same Google account, you can take advantage of yet another G Suite tool to help with your schedule. Plan menus, add school events, and set reminders using Google Calendar. You can even use it to note staff birthdays or other milestones so you never forget them again.

Online Ordering

In the new landscape of food service, online ordering is your best friend. Allowing students and families to select meals ahead of time, online ordering helps make inventory planning and meal prepping a breeze. This is especially true if you’re planning to serve meals in multiple ways.

Many districts plan to offer flexible learning options to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools. Whether your district is going completely virtual, offering a traditional, in-person learning model or a combination of both, online ordering helps you serve students no matter where they are.

Trello

Looking for a tool to help you manage a project in a clean, easy-to-use interface? Trello is the answer. In Trello, you can build boards, lists, and cards to help organize and prioritize your projects. Create all the boards you want and use them as your personal to-do list, to store recipe ideas, or to track goals. Invite staff to collaborate on specific Trello boards, too!

Online Ordering CTA

Tools that Help with New Ideas for Your K-12 School Nutrition Program

Getting tired of the same old menu and processes? Check out these tools for some fresh ideas from students, families, and other school nutrition directors like you. 

SurveyMonkey

Want a better way to learn new ideas than to ask for feedback from students and families? Use SurveyMonkey’s online builder to create surveys in minutes. Send them to your email list and watch the insights roll in!

Podcasts

Podcasts seem like the only way we have time to learn new things lately, and there’s a podcast for just about everything. Check out Inside School Food! They have weekly episodes covering topics like meeting sustainability goals and creating kid-friendly menus that are fresh, healthy, and affordable.

Pinterest

Pinterest isn’t just for perusing gorgeous dream home photos and crafts. It’s actually a great tool for recipes. Search for and save your favorite high-volume recipes in Pinterest to gain some inspiration for your menu this year.

Tools That Help Reduce Meal Debt

Unfortunately, student meal debt is still an area that needs improvement. These tools can help prevent and maybe even eliminate student meal debt in your district. 

Online payments

Adding the capability for families to pay for student meals online will get you paid for faster and with less administrative hassle. Also, online payments can automatically alert parents of low balance so they can act quickly to prevent meal debt.  

Not everyone wants to use a credit card to make meal payments. Look for a provider that allows you to accept eCheck payments also!

GoFundMe

While student meal debt continues to rise, so does charitable giving in the US, including donations made to educational programs. Set up a GoFundMe and start accepting donations so you can pay down your school’s debt faster than ever. 

Tools That Help Get The Word Out About Your K-12 School Nutrition Program

Creating a new menu? Launching online ordering for the first time? Whatever your announcement, these tools help you spread the news.

MailChimp

Need to send an email to a large list? Email is a great way to get the word out about new menus or other announcements. MailChimp makes it easy to create good-looking emails and send them to a large list of people. 

Canva

Presentation matters. Thanks to tools like Canva, you don’t have to be a graphic designer to make things pretty. They’ve even got templates for signs, flyers, posters, and more to get you started. 

Tools That Help Reduce Food Waste

You might not ever be able to get 100% use of your inventory, but we can all be doing our part to reduce food waste. These tools can help.

Your POS System 

We know. You’re already using your POS system all day, every day. But have you ever used it to identify unpopular items that could be contributing to food waste? This can be a great way to learn what’s being thrown away and to adjust inventory accordingly.

MealConnect

What better way to reduce food waste than to donate to your community? MealConnect is a free tool that links your food donations with nonprofits. You post your product on their app, get matched with a nearby foodbank, and (pending capacity) they’ll reach out to you. 

Your K-12 School Nutrition Program Can Use Cool Tools, Too!

While a cloud-based survey building application may sound intimidating, you don’t have to be a tech guru to take advantage of what these tools have to offer.

The best part is most of them are free, accessible from anywhere, and can make some serious improvements to your workday and your K-12 nutrition program overall.

What’s your favorite cloud-based tool? Let us know in the comments below!


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