We all know that the coronavirus pandemic hit our country hard, impacting workers, small businesses, our schools, and our everyday lives. But most people don’t know how much this pandemic affected our school nutrition programs. What was once taken-for-granted as an everyday operation in the school system has now been recognized by the masses as an essential function, integral to the nutrition of our children. Now more than ever, school districts must find ways to continue feeding any and all children, despite limited resources and reduced revenue.
According to a survey conducted by the School Nutrition Association (SNA) more than two-thirds of our nation’s school districts faced significant financial losses to their programs, some even in the millions. In the same survey conducted by the SNA, over 80% of responding districts reported serving fewer meals than they would have during a normal school day.
If the financial loss from serving less reimbursable meals and having no income from a la carte, vending,and concession sales weren’t enough of a setback, many school nutrition programs encountered additional expenses while serving curbside:
Tents, trays, to-go packaging, and PPE items are now necessary purchases for school cafeterias to serve safely and protect staff and students. Increased demand for pre-packaged menu items has also left school districts paying higher prices than normal. Some districts even implemented “hazard pay” to encourage workers to serve at the front lines of their meal service operation, risking their health. All in all, the spring and summer were racked with more funds going out rather than in.
Adapting to the New Normal
As far as we can see, getting “back to normal” is still out of the question for many districts, at least until the next school year. With all these added expenses for serving contactless, and the lack of revenue coming into the program, nutrition departments will look to get creative to increase meal participation and sales.
Digital Solutions for Your Meal Program
Incorporating available technologies has become critical, such as having a digital pre-ordering tool for meal service. In a digital pre-ordering solution, school districts can take orders in advance, offer both reimbursable and non-reimbursable menu items, and reach students on or off campus.
In the second part of this blog, we’ll take a look at how digital pre-ordering can be a great tool to help boost your revenue this coming school year and provide some creative suggestions for how you can use it.
There’s no telling how this school year will unfold and how our students will adjust to the new normal, but with more and more things moving to the online world we can be prepared for whatever comes our way.