As we settle into the New Year, we’re sure you (hopefully) have some hefty goals to make your program even bigger and better in 2016. Before you begin revving your school nutrition engines, we’ve decided to share some innovative ideas from foodservice programs across the country to kick start your creativity.

Alternative Breakfast Program

The cat is officially out of the bag. Studies have continued to demonstrate that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Although more and more schools are offering breakfast, many would like to increase breakfast participation. With students who aren’t hungry when they arrive to school, prefer hanging out friends or are involved in early morning extracurricular activities, many are missing out on starting their day fully nourished.

Student Feedback

Encourage kids to get involved in your meal program and menu planning process. Looking to inject some pizzazz in your program? Test new recipes and food items but offering samples and soliciting student feedback. You might be surprised at what sorts of nutritious items you can sneak into your cafeteria that kids will love! One Pennsylvania State school introduced soup so succulent that parents actually began placing orders – In fact, more than 100 quarts… at a $425 profit.

Share Leftover Food

One Indiana State school introduced a “No Thank You Table” where students place unwanted food, which is then donated to local families in need. Waste is always an issue in any program – especially with meal requirements often putting food on student’s plates that they aren’t likely to eat. Rather than fight the inevitable, why not give back to the community?

Integrate Interactive Menus

Get the entire family involved in your program by offering an online parent tool to review nutritional information. A simple tool that allows parents to view interactive menus, retrieve nutritional content, make payments, monitor account balances and manage allergens can have a profound effect on increasing participation.

Takeout or Delivery?

A small but growing trend is offering alternative meal delivery services. The sad reality is that many students nationwide do not have easy access to nutritional meals outside of school. Some programs have begun combatting the challenge by offering food that can be purchased for takeaway. One Florida State County has even equipped retired school buses with makeshift dining booths to provide nutrient-rich meals in the area’s most food-insecure neighborhoods. You don’t have to necessarily start chop-shopping your district’s school buses, but taking measures to include school nutrition in the home could have beneficial health effects on your students.

As you start heading down the track to a successful 2016, we’d like to invite you to check out our podcast – Where we shift the creative engine into full gear offering outside-of-the box suggestions that could help you further achieve excellence in your school nutrition program.