We all know that winter break is going to be here and gone in the blink of an eye. Even if your break is short, it will surely show itself when it comes to your on-hand inventory. Here are some ways to avoid having excess inventory, waste, and spoilage before the new semester starts.

Use Your Inventory System to Take Control Of Your Stock

Just ahead of winter break, take a moment to evaluate your inventory data before locking up for the next few weeks. Your inventory system is meant to help you order and plan better, so if you haven’t had a chance to view the data and reporting tools, now is a good time. You never know what you’ll find!  

  • Pull a perpetual inventory report on any or all items to view how much you have on hand at each site. This will help to identify if any items that need to be transferred between sites to avoid unnecessary orders.
  • Pull an inventory aging report to view your received product and what might be moving slower than expected. This will help you decide if you want to make some last minute menu adjustments in order to use those items first.
  • Conduct a physical inventory count before ordering for the new semester to help you narrow down the quantities you need or don’t need in your January menus. Physically counting your inventory will also help you and your staff visually review your products and determine if they’ll be usable when the school year resumes.

Donate or Return Excess Inventory

There is nothing worse than wasted money and wasted food. By donating excess food items to those in need, or getting your district’s money back for slow moving items, you’re ensuring that your inventory is managed with purpose and efficiency.  

  • Team up with a local food bank to set up a School Pantry Program in your district. Donating those excess unopened perishable and non-perishable items to families in need could not come at a better time. With all the expenses low-income families face during the holiday season and having the having the kids back at home full time, getting supplemental food could make a big difference to them.
  • Find out if your vendors allow the return unused and unopened items for credit. This will help you gain those funds back so that you use it toward inventory that is consumed or utilized more frequently, or to otherwise help keep your budget in line.

Want to find out more about setting up a School Pantry in your district? Click here.

Provide Winter Meals For Your Community

Instead of donating your excess or expiring inventory to food banks or pantries, use it to cook up some warm and nutritious meals to your students. Districts like Houston Independent School District and Indianapolis Public Schools have already developed successful programs that provide free meals to children during the winter break. In addition to providing essential nutritional benefits, meal programs can also boost the success and safety of children in the community that need it most.

  • Winter meals would combat the “food insecurity” of your students during the holidays by offering nutritious daily lunches or pre-packed meals using that excess inventory. For many children, the foods served at school are the only nutritious meals they eat that day or their only meals at all.   
  • Ensuring a constant source of nutrition during the break helps close the gap between food insecure children and secure children.“Children from food insecure households are likely to be behind in their academic development” and “may experience increases in an array of behavior problems including: fighting, hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, mood swings, and bullying.” 
  • Opening a location where students can come eat a meal during the holidays would also provide a “safe space” for students that live in more unstable or dangerous home conditions. By doing this, school districts can use their resources and size to establish a positive hub within their communities.

At the end of the day, taking control of your inventory will not only save your district money in but it can also contribute to your community in the long run. We aim each year to be more and more sustainable in our cafeterias, why not in our inventory too?

Read here to find out how the USDA is supporting this effort and what your district can do too:  https://www.usda.gov/foodwaste/activities