We recently attended the School Nutrition Industry Conference, held Jan. 17-19 in San Diego, CA. More than just offering the latest news about foodservice, SNIC 2016 took a big picture view of the challenges school nutrition directors face now and what’s coming in the future. Here are our two most important takeaways:
- School Nutrition Directors must be able to bridge the generational divide.
Keynote speaker and self-professed Millennial Curt Steinhorst of The Center for Generational Kinetics says that today’s school nutrition programs often include a mix of employees spanning four generations, so finding ways to understand each other and work efficiently are crucial to success. Steinhorst encouraged us to see the generational divide not as a hurdle to success, but as a distinct opportunity to leverage different skill sets and knowledge bases.
He focused a lot on Millennials, who now make up the largest generation in the workforce. Millennials are both foodservice workers and parents of students, and their impact on school nutrition is only beginning.
The bottom line: Millennial parents are informed about nutrition topics and are questioning of food quality. Be a source of information for them and communicate frequently, preferable through the social media platforms they trust.
- Don’t ignore current trends that are impacting foodservice.
To increase participation in their meal programs, school foodservice directors should pay attention to the following trends:
- Consumer Demands: Parents increasingly want fresh, natural and additive-free foods for their kids. They’re also interested in ethnic or urban cuisines, and humane food practices.
- Localization: More than just proximity, local means “food with a story.” Parents want to know the who, where, what and why behind the food their kids eat.
- Transparency: This applies to both menus and operations, which are under increasing scrutiny from parents and students. Be open and honest.
- Value: People find more value—and are willing to pay more—for exceptional quality and options to customize.
The bottom line: Food trends from outside the school environment will impact what students want to see inside their schools. Pay close attention to these trends and try to implement them, even in small ways, in your meal programs.
Your Cambro team is here to help. Contact your local Cambro representative for simple solutions that will help you meet the needs of parents and students.