It might be tempting to discount the concept of statewide POS software based on terminology without actually learning about the real possibilities that are available to your State agency.
Before we get to the heart of the matter, I think we need to take a moment to get over the hurdle of the word “statewide.”
In a recent InsideSchoolFood podcast interview, Executive Director of the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition, Rick Goff was asked if he felt the statewide system he has deployed in West Virginia is replicable in other states.
Mr. Goff was quick to reply, “Absolutely…. This is the only system to have…. We can do almost half of our monitoring from our offices here in Charleston before we even enter the field.” Sidenote: We recently launched our own school nutrition podcast, PEP Talks. Check it out! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
While I certainly agree that statewide Point of Service (and Student Eligibility) systems are ideal and in theory the model can be replicated in other states, I must admit that West Virginia is a very unique situation.
West Virginia has had a statewide system for well over 20 years so a single system used by all School Food Authorities (SFAs) is essentially “the way things have always been done.” West Virginia had the luxury of implementing a statewide system at a time when perceptions were much easier to manage – long before Facebook and Twitter were created, much less, household names.
Let’s face it, a single system that 100% of SFAs use is unlikely to fly in most states (I can envision rioting in the streets…or at least a lot of really bad press).
But who says your statewide system has to actually be used statewide? Statewide POS systems can be available to every SFA in the state and adoption can be encouraged as an optional tool at no charge to SFAs. So instead of thinking of the word “statewide” as meaning that every SFA uses your system, think of it to mean your system is available to every SFA.
Now that we agree that “statewide” is not a bad word, let’s talk a bit about how a statewide POS system can benefit your State agency. Although every state is unique and each has its own reasons for considering a statewide system, there are four common benefits to which we can all relate.
More Efficient Compliance Monitoring
A statewide POS system allows your compliance monitors to work more efficiently since they are very familiar with the system they are reviewing.
Of course, training new reviewers becomes easier in this scenario as well. Additionally, time is not wasted trying to translate the reports or types of data are needed for the Administrative Review (AR) into verbiage that SFAs can associate with their operations. In other words, a statewide POS system provides a common vocabulary.
Data Access and Analytics
One of the biggest challenges facing State agencies when it comes to compliance monitoring is data access.
With a Statewide POS system your State agency has access to SFA-level data when needed for an AR. In fact, you can review that data from the comfort of your own desk rather than waiting to review it onsite.
Completing more of the review off-site saves time. (Wait a minute…this point could easily pull double duty and fit in the “more efficient compliance monitoring” category above as well.)
Additionally, statewide POS software provides access to data that is not available via the typical reimbursement claim submission such as grade level participation, prepayment vs cash sales figures, student debt, and meal price comparisons.
With access to data comes the ability to aggregate data at a state-level to help make better business decisions. For example, based on aggregate collective data you may find that there is a need to conduct a certain type of training, or perhaps provide marketing/educational material to SFAs to improve statewide performance in targeted areas.
Proactive Technical Assistance
Daily compliance is the real goal of any technical assistance.
roviding usable tools such as statewide POS software, not just guidance, can go a long way in ensuring daily compliance. Unfortunately, there are times when tools are available through USDA and/or other sources that are well-intentioned but might not be very usable in the “real world.”
Quality software can help SFAs stay compliant long before an AR ever finds them out of compliance.
Therefore, statewide POS systems serve as a form of proactive technical assistance, especially for under-resourced SFAs. Unfortunately, more often than not, the SFAs that need the most help are the ones that can least afford it.
Level the Playing Field
Speaking of not being able to afford quality software… providing a statewide POS system essentially levels the playing field.
All SFAs, including those that are under-resourced, have the same access to industry-leading software that larger, well-funded SFAs currently utilize, ensuring effective management of school nutrition operations.
The reality is that even though all SFAs need to follow the same State and Federal Guidelines, some simply have fewer resources to get the job done. I covered this topic extensively in a previous post, “Statewide Menu Planning Software Helps the 70 Percenters” so I won’t get on this particular soap box now (you are welcome).
The concept of statewide POS systems certainly has a lot of State agencies rethinking the status quo of every district for themselves when it comes to POS software.
While we only covered four reasons your State agency should explore the idea of providing statewide POS software, I am sure there are many other benefits you are already turning over in your mind.
Now that you are comfortable with at least considering a statewide POS system, you might be wondering if SFAs will actually see value in it as well.
I hope you will join me for my next installment in this mini-series where I will cover the benefits SFAs gain through statewide POS software.