Procurement is one of the most complex processes that happen within our food service departments. In the event of shifting a program from using processed, ready-to-heat foods to scratch cooked recipes, many processes change. Once we have a vision for our program and the menu and recipes that reflect that, the task of procurement is large--how do we source our ingredients and fulfill the mission of serving fresh, whole foods while working within the food budget available to school food programs?
Preparing school meals from scratch, using fresh, whole ingredients is a trend that is happening around the nation. The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 supports “fresh” in its foundation of food-based menu planning, and whole food procurement is a key ingredient in the process. This section covers:
When we change from ready-to-heat foods to fresh foods in the context of menu planning, letting go of prior presumptions is important. Determining the amount of choices and how many per each age group are examples of menu planning challenges. Efficient, fiscally sustainable scratch-cooking programs are reducing choices in favor of fresh flavors. This section covers:
The USDA Foods Program provides approximately 15-20% of the food used to prepare meals in Child Nutrition Programs. This area of procurement requires a keen sense of planning ahead and protecting against “the unexpected.” Product selection and maximizing value to your menu are the name of the game. This section covers:
We use the word “relationship” when we discuss vendors because regardless of how rigorous and competitive we create these procurement processes, the vendor that we select (or the vendor who wins the bid) is a partner in how well or not we are able to access the fresh ingredients that we need for our menus.
“Farm to School” and “Local” did not become trends overnight. For the last 15 years or so we’ve seen a steady growth in the commitment to purchasing local and regional foods in institutional environments and school districts in particular. The economic impact to a community and the state can be quite large, and we are redefining traditional procurement in the process.
Prepared foods are still finding a way into schools. Why? Many school districts have visions of offering something “special” for the kids, but they literally can’t prepare it themselves due to lack of facilities or skills. In many communities, local food companies offer an alternative to typical procurement channels and will prepare products to your specifications.
Milk, offered with every meal—usually in a carton or plastic bottle—is delivered two or three times a week without a thought. Can this model be improved? Yes! Bulk milk is a concept that is ripe for growth. Bulk milk dispensers, aka “cows” are a staple of many institutional cafeterias, like universities or corporate dining rooms…why not your cafeterias?
Concerns of the growing, antibiotic-resistant salmonella known as the “super-bug” in our meat supply have sparked a small but persistent interest in the school food market for procurement of “antibiotic-free” (ABF) or “raised without antibiotics” (RWA) poultry. “Pink slime” was the headline in beef. The combination of health and environmental issues has many in procurement seeking “clean” meat products.
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