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Initial Launch of the Team Up for School Nutrition Success Training Program

Posted by Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Undersecretary for the USDA Food Nutrition and Consumer Services in Food and Nutrition
Dec 22, 2014

Feeding students healthy, tasty and nutritious school meals can be a challenge.  Just ask any one of the thousands of school nutrition professionals who carry out the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.  They have to balance menu planning following nutrition standards, financial management, and inventory management, all while making meals that will be enjoyed by students – not always an easy audience.  It is a testament to their dedication that over 90 percent of America’s schools have now implemented the improved standards found in the Healthy Hungry Free Kids Act of 2010.

USDA is working hard to find ways to continue to support their efforts. One way we are doing that is a new program that we recently piloted in Mississippi that provides free training through a partnership with the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI). The Team Up For School Nutrition Success Training (Team Up) is tailored to schools and covers topics like menu planning, financial management, procurement, meal presentation and appeal, as well as youth engagement tactics, and strategies to reduce plate waste.  

Another partner in this initiative is First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is grateful for the hard work being done in our country’s school cafeterias, but also recognizes that some may need a little help. When she heard about our initiative, she took the time to make a video to not only thank and encourage the dedicated school food service professional around the country, but to encourage them to take advantage of Team Up. Hear with the First Lady had to say about Team Up: 

The name Team Up really says it all. This unique learning experience provides not only professional training and resources, but peer-to-peer mentoring. Schools have the opportunity to learn from each other, in order to make positive strides toward providing healthy school environments with financial stability and strong student participation. It isn’t a one-off experience. The peer-to-peer mentoring will continue after trainees return to their districts, and NFSMI will conduct 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-ups to gauge the success of the plans the schools developed after the training.  If additional training is needed, NFSMI will recommend options based on the schools progress.  The state agencies and USDA Food and Nutrition Services will also provide support and feedback. 

I couldn’t be more pleased with what I have heard about the how the first training class went, which was attended by 53 participants and 27 mentors. Participants told us that it was helpful to have a chance to discuss their individual challenges, as well as those that participants had in common. They said that hearing their colleagues and mentors talk about how they have handled some of these challenges in their schools was especially helpful.  Some participants even said that it was the best training they had ever attended!  The Kentucky Department of Education staff was so inspired that they created a video to say what a great experience they had.

We look forward to continuing our relationship with the White House and all the trainees. Together we can ensure that America’s students are getting and eating the healthiest food possible during the school day.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition