The following guest blog highlights the success story of one of our nation’s school nutrition change agents. As a recent participant and lead mentor in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative, Richard Miles provided best practices and strategies to ensure his peers have the tools they need to manage successful school meal programs.
By Richard Miles, Coordinator of Nutrition and Wellness, Seminole County (Fla.) Public Schools
The Team Up for School Nutrition Success training was an experience that provided me with valuable tools, resources and networking opportunities, along with the motivation and confidence to empower school nutrition professionals, like myself, to create positive changes in our schools and communities.
The initiative provides a framework for interactive collaboration among school nutrition professionals to address challenges and develop action plans to successfully serve healthier school meals. Each two-day workshop brings together school nutrition professionals who are looking to improve their district’s programs. Through peer-to-peer mentoring, they learn from those that have attained success in specific challenging areas. Topics are selected by participants to ensure each Team Up workshop is customized and focused on relevant areas of need and interest (e.g. financial management, menu planning, increasing meal participation, among others.)
During the workshop, individuals have the opportunity to grow professionally from a variety of activities. These include best practices presentations, facilitated small group discussions, and one-on-one networking with peers, allied organizations, and child nutrition support personnel.
As a lead mentor, I had the opportunity to share success stories from my district on increasing meal participation in Seminole County Public Schools. Our dining services success plan is built on our mission to “inspire and nurture the human spirit – one guest, one meal and one community at a time”. We do so by focusing on our guests’ experience and creating a growth culture for team members. Some of the presentation highlights included:
- Invest in your team and empower them to best serve your guests
- Plan specific training sessions for all team members and conduct informational huddles daily
- Build relationships with guests
- Offer a variety of freshly prepared selections to guests at every meal
During the workshops, I observed the transformation of numerous school nutrition directors from feeling frustrated and overwhelmed to empowered and re-energized. After my mentoring presentation, I achieved my goal of helping my peers create a new mission statement reflecting their vision, and complimenting the ambition of all team members.
Back in my district, my team is now using the Team Up model to enhance our training sessions, and during our back-to-school leadership training the adjustments were well received by our management leaders. The Team Up experience demonstrates the value and impact the training has on the school nutrition professionals. We look forward to the new learning opportunities and other benefits that Team Up will provide as it continues to expand.