With many different facets of your school nutrition program, it helps to have resources available that can improve efficiency and save you money. Usually, these resources cost your program either time or money – or sometimes, both. However, there are a number of free resources available to your program. Between grants, programs like Team Nutrition, and free software tools, you’re bound to find something that is beneficial to your school foodservice operations.
A grant is a sum of money given by the government or other organization that is to be utilized for a specific purpose. Unlike loans, they do not have to be paid back, so grants are a great way to loosen up your budget. Some grants only happen once, and some, like the Farm to School grant, repeat every year.
You can easily find government-funded grants through the USDA website or through Grants.gov. The USDA website has a list of current open and closed grants, along with award amounts, applicant eligibility, and application deadlines. If you already know which grant you want to apply for, you can search for it on Grants.gov and apply on the website. All governmental grant applications are submitted on Grants.gov through the online application tool, Workspace.
Government grants are not the only funds available – there are plenty of private organizations that are dedicated to supporting the health and nutrition of the nation’s children. Many of these organizations award grants to school nutrition programs. The Child Nutrition Outreach Program (CNOP) provides a list of privately-funded grants, along with the grant’s purpose and where to apply. Because these grants are funded by several different organizations, the application process will be different than applying for government-funded grants, and will vary depending on the grant you are interested in.
Team Nutrition is a program led by the USDA that aims to support child nutrition programs, and encourage healthy eating and physical activity. The Team Nutrition page on the USDA website is home to a variety of free resources for school nutrition professionals. You’ll find webinars and training, local wellness policy resources, MyPlate resources, a graphics library, and so much more. You can also join Team Nutrition to affirm your commitment to helping students make healthier choices. Team Nutrition Schools receive special promotional materials, nutritional education, and have the opportunity to apply for the HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms award.
Fuel Up to Play 60 is the nation’s largest school health program. It was launched by the NFL and the National Dairy Council to encourage students to lead healthier lives. School districts can receive up to $4,000 per year to help implement healthy changes. The program provides a “playbook” that gives schools the resources and strategies needed to start their own healthy initiatives. A few of the “plays” in the playbook include “Farm to School – Know Your Food,” “Snack Smarter Schoolwide,” “In Class Activity Breaks,” and many more.
For many districts, school nutrition software is vital to their foodservice operations. Unfortunately, software usually isn’t free. There are a few free software tools, however, that you should be utilizing in your program.
Interactive Food Buying Guide
The Interactive Food Buying Guide (FBG) allows you to search and compare food yields, create lists of your favorite foods, and use other tools like the Recipe Analysis Workbook and the Product Formulation Statement Workbook. The FBG is available both as a web-based tool, as well as a mobile app, for making quick purchasing decisions on the go.
Team Work is a software tool designed by PrimeroEdge that helps you track your USDA professional standards without the hassle of pen and paper. You can easily store and track employee certificates and CEUs, all in the cloud. Team Work is sure to save you time and improve the accuracy of your records. You can learn more and sign up for this free tool on the Team Work web page.
Software Provided by your State or Management Company
Some State Agencies and management companies have purchased PrimeroEdge software for all of the districts they serve. If you live in one of these states, or are part of one of these organizations, you have the opportunity to take advantage of tools that would normally cost your program money.
If you are part of one the states or management companies below, check what software is already available to you.
Sodexo | Indiana | North Dakota | Pennsylvania
If you aren’t sure which software solutions are available to districts in your state, reach out to your State Agency for more information.
Do you already use any of these free tools? Do you have other free resources that are helpful to your school nutrition program? We’d love to hear in the comments below!
Don’t forget to download our free eBook: The School Nutrition Toolkit. In our eBook, we dive deeper into these topics and offer helpful resources your nutrition department can use for free!