My School Menus is the perfect tool to communicate with your students and parents, to provide menu transparency, and to offer menus online to be accessed anywhere and on any device. With customization capabilities, you can provide a one-stop shop for students and parents looking for information on your program, from what foods you’re providing to where and how you’re offering the meals–from the cafeteria, to pickup, to bulk.
Check out this transcript from a webinar we did with Maureen Pisanick of Pisanick Partners in July at our Find Your Path Conference to learn more about how you can utilize My School Menus to better promote your program.
Okay, so good morning slash afternoon, depending upon where you’re based. My name is Lynn Shavinsky. I’m the regional sales manager for Health-e Pro and you are in the session Utilizing Technology to Promote Your Program with Maureen Pisanick. I’m very excited to have Maureen here to present this topic and met Maureen about eight years ago, and she quickly became one of my favorite people. Why? She knows a lot about child nutrition. She was a food service director. She then started the consulting company, Pisanick Partners where she supports 30 school districts throughout Ohio. She was an original Team Nutrition USDA Healthier US Schools Award Winner, and now is a consultant for Ohio Department of Ed. She works on the Smarter Lunchroom Team Nutrition Grant, and is an ICN trainer often called upon to do professional development within Ohio on topics from farm-to-school, allergens and operations.
However, the simple fact as to why Maureen is so helpful and I enjoy her is because she just gets it. She understands child nutrition, and the way she views things: How does it contribute to the whole child, their whole experience? So those of you who just heard Joanne speak, spoke in terms of the ability to adapt and see the big picture; Maureen is one of those people. So today she’s going to be sharing with you, her ability to envision the road ahead and plan for it. Not assuming it’s going to be perfect but mapping it out. With potholes, detours, delays and all the other kinds of things that can get through; how you will be able to get through that and manage it. She always has a full car, in reality and metaphorically, and knows the importance of bringing everyone together and coordinating. So she is going to share that with you to hopefully get you all moving in the right path. All right. Thank you, Maureen.
Thank you so much, Lynn, and I can’t say enough about how wonderfully supported I’ve always felt in meeting you eight years ago. I never thought I’d be sitting in a chair talking about technology, but here we are. I always say you can’t give good service unless you get it. And I know what we’ve been able to achieve for districts utilizing the Health-e Meal Planner Pro platform has really elevated our communication skills with our families. And so today we want to talk a little bit about that as it relates to the current landscape we’re living in.
And as Lynn set stated, if you’d like to double click on the presentation it’s to make that larger and me smaller. I started my morning with my beautiful team. First of all, it takes a village. I want to give a shout out to all of these wonderful people that really are Pisanick partners. It’s not one person, it is a village, and certainly we were all laughing and teasing today that one of our senior partners, Marge is like so quick on Health-e Pro and getting things done. But every one of us really cares about developing customized solutions for schools.
And we’ve been doing that since 2012 successfully in Ohio, in the surrounding Midwest West. Certainly this year has been, Joanne said she wasn’t going to say it. I am going to say it: it was unprecedented. We did pivot and we’ve done a ton of things. And so we hope to bring not only my perspective, but this beautiful mission and heart to light today and how we communicate our plans. We are consultants that help in many different ways. And certainly this year, we know that all schools are at different levels in this. So today’s presentation is really going to help you take a look at what we use My School Menus for previously; what we did to use it and utilize it in time of emergency feeding. And then certainly the lion’s share of this is going to empower you to really grasp onto this tool and take some really cool tips that will make your program more visible and certainly more supportive in what we know will be for many of us virtual and in some way, shape or form either blended or our students will see a different type of academia this year.
And we will help you use your My School Menu tool to take your program to that level as well. Here’s where we are. One of the silver linings to the Covid cloud is that we feel that we have a national conversation going. And one of my favorite new conversations I started is with a colleague in California, and that is Jen McNeil from Lunch Assist. And previously on a Health-e Pro pro webinar, she and I have collaborated and continue to have ongoing conversation. And I think the silver lining is that we now are embracing these video conferencing situations and we’re really still able to connect with folks. And while we live in the Buckeye State, I’m very proud of what we do here in our region, know that anything Pisanick does, and certainly Health-e Pro at large, our goal is to really benchmark with what is going on nationally and really support all of you and meet you where you’re at.
Today’s session, again, just as a recap, we’ll cover some things from past present and future as it relates to the technology in My School Menus. And certainly I’m using some real examples of how we have leveraged this to increase the professionalism, menu transparency, and support that districts using this platform have been able to realize. Taking that seat at the table as not only authority in school food service, but really amplifying the message of the district’s department in ways that we’ve never done before by leveraging a virtual medium. I saw in the chat box, number one thing most folks were saying is safety. We’re on board with that as well, health and safety. So we’re going to talk about technology. For those of you who have been out to dine, many of us as we are doing so cautiously are looking to plans and those covert action plans.
If we learn anything from our commercial sisters and brothers in the retail and restaurant segments, they’ve been doing a really great job of posting and being very transparent about the safety precautions they’re doing. The number one reason is, because in an economic world, they want us back in the restaurants and in buying their foods. Guess what, school food service is the same thing, right? We have to do our job to very transparently, explain to our families what we’re doing to really ensure safety. Back that up a step, we care about our departments. We need to make our employees feel safe leveraging the plans that we have going back to school and how we communicate those things, both for our internal customers, and of course the most important customers are students and their families.
I’d like to highlight some really cool things about some Lunch-and-Learn opportunities. And also knowing that we’re going to have some dynamic plans. And again, it’s Plan A, B, sometimes all the way down the whole alphabet this year. How can we really point our parents to one portal to gain information and the latest updates about our program? My answer to that today: My School Menus. I sound like an infomercial, but I love it. And I’m excited to tell you about it. So My School Menus. We’re thinking if our tech has always been named the cafeteria and extension of the classroom. And today one of my lovely staff members said, you know, it’s funny because we’re not really going to feed in the cafeteria and we might be eating in the classroom and some classrooms might be somebody’s couch at home, right? We’re all crazed.
What I’m going to say is, make your meal an extension of your message. Make your meal an extension of your message and how are you going to tell that message? Using My School Menus is a really great way to talk about what your district is going to focus on in many different ways, not just what is on the menu, but in many different ways. And we’re going to go through that today. Many of us have settled on a plan of feeding in the classroom. So again, thinking about how can we support those folks, either teachers, teachers aides, whomever is going to be chaperoning that experience in the classroom, how cool it might be if we’re able to have the ability for that piece of My School Menus to help our teachers deliver a safe meal, to help maybe perhaps even learn how to count and claim it, who knows.
There’s a lot of opportunity for us. And it really, really goes beyond that. And of course, menu transparency is super important. We always know that has been the number one reason we’ve used and leveraged My School Menus. And that is because we have a host of things we need to be careful about. Number one, health. Again, safety and health came on that feedback from Joanne’s keynote. Health for those students that have allergies, right? Those that have medical needs health in general, for those folks that are very curious about certain attributes, they’re trying to watch out and be aware of in their diet, many different ways and reasons we’ve used My School Menus in the past really carry forward to us in kind of a 2.0 version, speaking as a mom. I will give you my perspective. I have a second grader and she went virtual in March.
And there’s a great possibility she’ll have a blended learning environment going back into the fall. So I’m kind of living this both as somebody who’s helping prepare our schools and as a person that’s going to live it as a parent. And as soon as we went virtual my inbox blew up and it was inundated with emails from the superintendent, from the principal, from her teacher, from the specials that she had, her art teacher, her PE teacher, it was an exorbitant amount of emails to manage. And when I had to go back and find the Zoom link for the specific specials that were going, it was a nightmare. What we are hoping to do is teach to the point of My School Menus being a one-stop shopping landing page. Think through that as what you can bring, not only to show your menu to your communities, but also technology value-add services that you might work with, your district, your principals, your teachers, to be able to make My School Menus more than just a menu, but more of a landing page so that parents can go to one concise area to find out information that they need to know about their program.
Previously. I think many of us always capitalized on that little sidebar, widgets, I call them to be able to convey things like our meal prices. Certainly many of us who have accepted online payments have already connected URL links to your systems that allows parents to pre-fund. This is a huge thing right now, right? We’re trying to do away with money exchange from a safety hazard standpoint. So that’s another really great tool if you’ve never used it before, to put a URL link and let parents see what they want for the menu and apply funds. If you’re a district that accepts funds meal applications, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, at least for Ohio, we’re hearing there’s a slim-to-none chance that we’re going to be universal feeding. And everybody’s going to get a free meal.
That would be a wonderful world, but we need to plan if we are going to be managing meal applications, how can we best encourage parents to fill those out? We know now more than ever, there is an economic disparity and much more unemployment, parents that have never had to fill out a meal application certainly will, would love to have a menu, how to apply payments, how to maybe get a service like a reduced meal if they can click on there. Certainly again, I liked the idea of a landing page and not having to email and click a bunch of buttons. So if you’re the leader in your district or perhaps a head manager at particular buildings, whatever way you want to do it, making it kind of one-stop shopping. And I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you I’m preaching to the choir. All of us are a little nervous about the employment, right? How many people are worried about their employees coming back in full force. And for those of you who have a great response and say, yep, we’re all back, I’m really admire you. There are many schools that are worried about people not returning and what they’re going to do if they run short on the necessary label labor to deliver their programs.
Some of those parents that are staying at home with their students might want to come and help serve lunch a couple of hours. So certainly posting out your job and maybe even your substitute opportunities in your district. We’ve used them before. And certainly I think we should continue to use those as we move forward during the pandemic. We love our partners at Health-e Pro and Laura and all her creative widgets development and her team. These are some new ones. At a drop of a dime, we had to change how we were delivering food. And so many schools not only were trying to communicate how that was going to happen and how it changed, maybe even from March to April. And then again from April to May and maybe into summer.
We’re really nervous about food safety. And so we saw during pandemic feeding the use of technology to not only talk about how you can pick up your food, or you’re going to be stopping at a bus stop or at a location that was going to be delivered in your community. One of our schools asked us actually for that delivery to click on it and we hovered and allowed it to have pin drops on Google maps. So a parent could actually go to a Google map and see all the places around that districts, town, where the drop-offs would happen. Again, leveraging technology in terms of Google Maps, to be able to allow parents that clickable access right from your My School Menus in order to be able to determine where they could pick up their foods. Some of us clicked on Toss Leftovers after Two Days, and we embedded a short time in lieu of temperature, video, but geared towards families.
Here’s what you’re getting in your bag this week. This is what you need to do and what you need to know about the safety of those contents. And so not only the widget and maybe connecting with a PDF of information, remembering you can embed short YouTube videos. That talk through things that you’re feeling are a pain point or a need in your district. And I’ll get to some planning forward ideas on videos as well, but that is a really good one. Food safety was certainly huge for those schools who have never done a Seamless Summer, explaining to families that the meals were at no charge, having just a simple icon and button. Again, the menu’s there, everything you absolutely need to know was was on that and a place to contact you. Certainly pre-ordering became a huge deal in pandemic feeding for many of our schools.
Some of our schools are not universal free or CEP or provision. So before we knew what the waiver was going to be, they were actually doing Google Forms to get a sense of who in their district’s enrollment would be participating in picking up these meals. And they were using a Google form and a pre-order to really fit how they were going to prepare those meals and deliver those meals. And again, that was a click of a button right on the widget, right on the menu. So again, one-stop shopping for the parents and I really feel families have grown more accustomed to those schools that were using it. This is a screenshot of a simple menu, more information on the side, we really used pandemic feeding and communications to parents to drive them to this page.
And I think we’ve come to a point where we can really think about what we want to do moving forward. I would be remiss to say our mission stays the same at Pisanick Partners. Making the meal an extension of the message, our message is wholesome meals, fueling healthy lives today, now more than ever, again, gaining those parents’ trust on what type of foods you’re serving is one side of it. The other side of it is we know students can not be academically successful if they have barriers with nutrition–i.e. hangry–cannot learn if they do not have fuel. So these are some of the ways we meet them where they’re at. We’ve moved forward with sharing. Some of our ideas harvest of the month in farm-to-school has always been a pillar at Pisanick Partners.
And in Ohio, we’re very proud of the schools that have fully embraced leveraging using these great nutritious just-in-time prototype items on their menus. And if we’re doing all of that work and we’re really promoting not only sustainability, but buying local, supporting that message, it should be something that we can clearly share with our parents and amplify. And so this widget thing system is just a wonderful way. If that’s something you choose to do moving forward in, here is a way to let parents know, sing it loud and proud, and really be able to gain their trust, gain their excitement. We are in the business of food service and that is customer service. And so just like the restaurants are enticing us with how clean the restaurants are, what their COVID precautions are.
Many of us are going back to the places we know that have that fresh or that particular food item we really, really like. And so being able to leverage My School Menus to tell that story is awesome. It’s an awesome opportunity. We’ve had families that have said our kiddo likes fill-in-the-blank so well that we’ve created scaled-down family-sized versions of recipes. So again, talking about that family, that’s getting that bag at home and they’re seeing it and going, Oh, wow, that’s something that I could maybe make. Or if my child likes being able to use a widget to share scaled-down versions of what your recipes are, if you are making semi or speed-scratch items is another really valuable resource to allow parents to be excited about going to your page and understanding other benefits they would receive from looking at the side widgets and what you’re communicating.
Even if you’re not doing any of that, I know all of you are using a lot of fresh produce, be it a DOD Favors programs, or certainly just in your own preparation. I think, for me, obviously I’ll put on my mom hat again. My daughter, sometimes we’ll look at a lunch menu for our local school district and pick it, not for the entree, but because they’re serving fresh strawberries or fresh grapes or fresh pineapple, something that catches her eye and she loves fruit. So for me, I think being able to celebrate the quality of food items keep your mission in focus. You know, don’t kill yourself and get overwhelmed with not being able to do everything, but I still feel, we all know wholesome meals fuel healthy lives, and part two, our district providing nutrition, that’s going to help students be academically successful. The whole idea of healthy students have healthy immune systems and there we are around the Mulberry Bush of making sure our kids are optimized during this really stressful strenuous year we’re about to enter.
So we say it is Mission Impossible, right? Making the school meal an extension of the classroom or making the meal an extension of the message. It’s always been our, our idea. You know, it’s a legacy that we are giving our students. I have a second grader for those of you who know me; well, I also have a junior in college. She will be 20 on Sunday and she is living in her own home now and Athens where she goes to Ohio University this fall. And I’m hopeful that the lesson she learned from me as a mom, a crazy dietitian mom at times, are going to help her choose healthful ways when she’s filling her own fridge and making her own meals now in college. And I think, you know, we forget a lot about the English and the math and the sciences we learn, but one fundamental truth is we all at some point have to feed ourselves as we go out into this world.
What we do in school nutrition makes me feel so proud of what we all do: meal time, emergency time, all the time, we are like a teacher. We are allowed the luxury to impress and model for students what it means to eat balanced, feel good about that, fuel ourselves, and be healthy. We talked at length at Health-e Pro at the beginning of this, we coined some new widget ideas for you to think about as you move into this new year. And I’m going to go through them one by one now. These are all up to you. These little graphics could be available from Health-e Pro and you can provide detail about them as a link behind the widget.
And I’m going to give you some of these ideas. And again, not all of them might work for you, but some might resonate and we think might be cool. So when I say lunch and learn, let’s think about putting ourselves in the seat of a student. So now I’m in a classroom versus a cafeteria space, and I’m looking at the front of the room and it’s a whiteboard, and I’m not allowed to touch my friends or talk really because I’m six feet apart. And I’m trying to be in my desk and responsible to my own space. So what are kids going to be able to do during that time? And we’re hopeful that some of these little messages, maybe even short videos, whatever it may be that you develop and work on in your district, or co-work on with any of us that would be willing to support you in doing this would be messaging that’s appropriate to some of the pain points or questions, or certainly interests.
So Lunch Buddy is one that comes to mind because we now know feeding the classroom is going to create a new Covid action plan for all of our allergy management plans. Most of us are writing covert action plans for everything from our flow of food, to our standard operating procedures. Many of us have an allergy plan at our district’s level that we have used in during pre-Covid times, pre-pandemic times. And now we need to think about how that classroom is going to address allergy management. And so again, talking about just re-educating behind some of the already established well-researched science-based facts from food allergy.org on what are some really great best practices. Lunch Buddy is a term somebody that perhaps if you have a student who has a peanut allergy, I’ll use this as an example.
And that student historically back in cafeteria days would go to the peanut-free table and sit with their lunch buddy and agree that they would bring a non-containing peanut butter lunch or purchase a non-containing peanut butter lunch. So that child didn’t have to sit in isolation on a table by themselves. So that’s kind of the old version of lunch buddy. The new version of lunch buddy might look different and it might look different depending on how you’re going to be able to feed your students this year. But nonetheless, I think it’s an important message why we’re all eating in a cafeteria space. You know, we’ve done training on signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, how to manage that. Now’s the time to reiterate education. If it’s not the teacher, if it’s a teacher’s aid or some sort of adult supervision in the cafeteria, not only how do we have to brush off that allergy management plan, but who needs training.
And I might go out on a limb and say, everybody kind of needs re-training. Cause we’re under a new set of circumstances looking at conveying that lunch buddy icon, not only for messaging to help inform your school population on how you’re going to manage that, or how co-managing that as a district that’s going to look will not only allow you to be safe be educated both from an internal standpoint, but also educating your parents about what you’re going to do, supporting those families that already are having a hard time thinking about going back to school for virus reasons. And obviously on top of that, perhaps other issues like allergies that might become a very important issue to discuss transparently and proactively. And again, this link on your My School Menus would be helpful in communicating your policy, your trainings, and also messaging that would help support that.
Allergy lessons here. I feel like I’m on a little bit of a soapbox right now. But I really think that having the opportunity to do a lunch and learn and talk a little bit about what allergies are again for students of any and all ages is a really appropriate message as we’re eating in different settings. So this lesson might be from a list of different short segment videos or again, pointing to different URLs that might link back to that allergy management’s org, where you can have more information available. I do believe that these lessons are something that would be helpful and supportive, not only in a classroom environment, but certainly at home in home lessons as well. This is one that we’re excited about. So there are things that we have denoted in our ingredients and recipes as allergens, obviously the top–A) it’s by law, you have to do that–but many of us have embraced the opportunity to also use the attributes in Health-e Meal Planner Pro. And so some people really love that and know what it is. And some people are like, what’s an attribute. So one of the things that we have worked on at Pisanick Partners, I’ll be able to show you this takes you to a page of resources on our website and as it opens up this is just a list of clickable. This is all free blog writings about the different attributes. So just one idea, I showed you how easily that you can just click on something and it takes you to the webpage. So you’re good to go.
So this is just one way; there’s pictures to all of these to be able to connect your families to information without having to be the author. Again, pointing to a credible source that you think is going to be supportive. This is all about informing parents about what we’re doing for attributing. It could be clean label. What does clean label mean? It’s a bit of a gray definition. So one of the things that I would like to say is the idea here is that any, and all of these can be something that you have decided to use as a district, and you can amplify that messaging.
Certainly by being able to connect to free things like ours on Pisanick Partner’s website or any certain articles places of science we would recommend science-based versus kind of popular opinion, but if families are understanding and wants and need to know more your community better than anybody this is the type of functionality that having some attribute lessons can help your parents understand and navigate as they’re doing virtual home lunch lessons or your teachers, or whomever’s in the classroom, being able to do that with the kiddos.
So now we’re onto classroom feeding. We are polling currently and a large majority of our school districts are deciding to classroom feed if not virtual feed. So we are really ramping up information about how to successfully have a flow of food, again, from a covert action safety plan to a food handling and safety plan from temperature control issues all the way through really waiting and crossing our fingers that offer versus serve is going to allow us to continue on with another one of our pillars, which is smarter lunchroom. We know when students have a choice, they’re more likely to select something and then consume it. It’s not nutritionalist, it’s swallowed. Another one that we always talk about. So talking about classroom feeding we would like many of our students and our parents to understand what that’s gonna look like. So when you look at this icon for you, it might mean just providing your safety plan and how it’s going to look for some of you.
Hopefully in many of you, a short video showing how the wayfinding is going to work, how students will be able to either come down into the cafeteria, select their meal and go back to the classroom or go out into a hallway and select their items and go back into the classroom, whatever your modality is going to be thinking about providing proactive communication along with perhaps even short video accompaniment is going to allow people to feel confident and gain that trust. And it’s not going to be so unknown. So we know that they’re going to be a deer in the headlights for a while, right? We’re all going to be a deer in the headlights, but we also know the more information we can share proactively. And certainly people are visual learners short YouTube video. Again, I can’t say enough about how people like to just kind of see it and seeing is believing, right? So we are going to get through this. We’re gonna do it, having a little icon on your side widget for me, high school menus to describe your classroom feeding program is going to be step in right direction to allow folks to gain confidence and what you’re doing, and certainly lead to transparency and, and greater confidence in your meal service.
Build-a-Meal has been one of our favorites for a long time. Again, making the cafeteria an extension of the classroom. We’ve moonlighted in classrooms and using build-a-meal was one of my favorite ways to talk about how food journaling or logging, what you eat can be helpful. And so in our district, when I was a food service director, they would bring me into the ninth grade classroom and we would do a joint activity where they would be able to go to build a meal along with a My Fitness Pal or other food tallying app, and be able to do a three-day log and assess it as a part of a health lesson. Connecting that to how food fuels us and the PE side of things was always beneficial.
Another benefit was the health teacher and the PE teacher were always looking at My School Menus and telling all the other staff what cool things I had on my menu and come down and eat. So it was a nice marketing tool to build in that comraderie with staff, but at the same time embedded My School Menus, not only as a tool to see what was on the menu, but something they were able to leverage in the classroom. So this is one of the first things I ever did when I got into Health-e Meal Planner Pro and as a dietitian, I’m trying to help schools leverage that connection. Build-a-meal was a great tool. Now, in current days, build-a-meal has become a great tool is for our nurses.
And why I say that is because if they are looking for carb count information and you are keeping Health-e Pro up to date, this is a great way to allow your students and the nursing staff to talk about what a student ate, giving an example of a type one diabetic. We all know you can look at a piece of paper with carb counts, but if a student has the ability to show, offer versus serve, what they ate and tell a nurse, how much of that they consumed, that carb-counting modality is a lot more accurate than just something that’s a static static piece of paper, right? So that creates some responsibility and I know many schools are worried about that. We have helped schools achieve a high level of accuracy with Health-e Pro, and have what we call an RD concierge service.
So that if a parent really is really nervous about being able to consume foods at school to know what the carb counts are, they feel much more confident leveraging the use of Health-e Meal Planner Pro supported by our team and visualized through My School Menus. As parents navigate that bag of meals for the week, or maybe the three days they’re at home teaching, if they’re provided a question from somebody that needs to know information from a medical standpoint, we’ve had some folks that have used build-a-meal for science, we’ve had them use it for math.
Lunch and learn this a meal can be a really cool way to show whomever is moderating that in classroom meal, how to entertain kids during the time blocks they’ll have in the classroom. I’m thinking my seven year old is going to get a little bit antsy sitting in the same seat all day if her schedule allows her to come back. So thinking through what we’re going to do to make the cafeteria an extension of the classroom while they’re sitting in their seats, eating meals in the cafeteria and the classroom setting, is a good way to think about how to use these widgets as these mini lunch and learns.
The second favorite way I used it is language. So we know that Health-e Pro is translatable to nearly a hundred different languages. Lunch and learn can be really fun. It could be entertaining. At Pisanick Partners hosted an intern and she actually was from China. She spoke Mandarin and was able to translate the Mandarin version of our menu. And one of the things that I’ll never forget is she was teaching a group and she said, wait, this is wrong. And it was trees, clouds, and sunshine. And we had used smarter lunchroom theory for broccoli, cauliflower and carrots and called it Trees, clouds, and sunshine on the elementary menu. So literally the Mandarin translation told her something that she thought, well, this isn’t right, but it was really kind of comical and funny. We know that schools are leveraging different ways to do all different types of lesson planning.
And so being able to use that quick Google translate could really make you a best friend to some of your language-teaching teachers in your district. If you share that with them, let them know that it’s an opportunity. Home meals are inevitable. We all know some of us might not even start school. My best friend is coming in from San Diego and she called me in tears the other day saying San Diego is not going back. They are going to be virtual. So some districts are making the decision now to go virtual for the year. Others again, we’re seeing much more on the blended side, but we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the potential for mini school closures based on surges.
And so having a proactive description of what your district’s policy is for home meals. Making the menu one landing page for parents is going to help them because they’re going to be overwhelmed with all the other educational needs that they’re going to be managing at home. So looking at your My School Menus and making their lives as easy as you possibly can really brings a value. They’re already appreciative that you’re feeding their babies, but certainly making lives a little bit easier. I’m saying this now as a parent, it certainly makes me feel like we can use this widget to extend that olive branch, that convenience, that support, that hope for our parents as they will be struggling, this year probably more so than they have in years past navigating the new situations.
Thinking ahead, many of our schools are already thinking through the financial impact. And I know we’re talking about that being somewhat out of our control, but we have to be able to control what we can control. And what I mean by that is some schools we’re working with are electing to try to resurrect their, a la carte programs. And the reason being is they have long survived, financially stable, in the black by selling healthy a la carte items that kids have really grown to love. And so there’s a financial side to this, the economy of it, but there’s also that comfort zone in schools where kids want to go back. When we survey students and we try to get their preferences, we know that a lot of those schools that rely on a la carte, it’s not just to make the income, it’s to provide that support for students that come in early and leave late. Sometimes stay for practices, are away from their families and homes for longer than the typical school day. We don’t know what all that’s going to look like, but certainly I know there are a crew of high school students that are waiting to see if that Hudson and snack bar is going to be open.
And if they’re going to be able to get their ice coffee and an Otis cookie. So we’re looking at ways to rise to the occasion, even though it seems daunting. And it seems like one more thing to have to plan through. We know it’s what our customers want. And we know it’s one way we can help provide value as a department and support our students. And so we’re looking at Google Forms similar to that curbside/pickup/call-ahead at Starbucks, you can use the app, you can get your order in and you get to have the special parking spot and you get to grab it and you go cause it’s prepaid and all that fun stuff. So obviously we’re not developing apps and spending a ton of technology dollars, but we do have free resources, again, like Google Forms to be able to create some a la carte lists and be able to have some timestamps like that, Otis Spunkmeyer cookies with the coffee at this time.
And it comes through to the department’s computer. They can look at it and have that prepared for the student and we can leverage the dollars on their account to be able to validate as an a la carte spending. We’re looking at that as a potential opportunity to think ahead. There are still many unknowns with how school is going to shake out, but being creative and thinking about these things now is the time. One of the things about this weekly meal pickup pre-order, if you look at what is going right in the industry, there are two examples that come to mind, at least locally for us. Number one, you can buy your Panera lunch and then you can also buy whole heads of lettuce, pints of blueberries, etcetera.
They have grocery items because the other thing folks are thinking about is how can I efficiently navigate going out and doing my errand stopping at one place and getting multiple things versus stopping at different places, is really important for those of us who are now living in a new red zone. So, you know, we’re not trying to go 50 different places as a family. We’re trying to think ahead. One-stop shopping, try to collect our items. And perhaps, as Joanne said in the keynote, maybe even ordering groceries online is what we’re doing now, because it’s just our way to keep our families safe. And it’s our way of operating in a way we’ve never thought we would be doing.
I know some of our schools were doing homemade pizza. One example would be, Our homemade pizza is such a hit, so you’re going to pack up your lunches, but you’re going to allow parents to be able to buy dough balls to make pizza for dinner for their families. Our only limit in terms of what we think we can do, but again, using side widgets in My School Menus, how your district is communicating to your families is going to be key, getting people looking at My School Menus in a different lens this year.
How about this? We all have our standard operating procedures, food service license, our inspections, being able highlight what you’re doing in your updated Covid checkpoints. Many of us are doing things like daily staff, health checks, allowing families to know that you’re asking important questions to prohibit folks in on your staff to prepare food that may have been exposed or exhibiting symptoms is a really great way to be transparent and share that you’re doing everything you can. I would be singing loud and proud if I’m doing enhanced cleaning. And many of our covert action plans are calling for criteria and high-frequency touch points. What are we doing to clean high-frequency touch points and how do we convey that to our customers, our parents, our families, so they know that we are doing the utmost, we can to continue to sanitize and be safe. Those are things that we can talk about visually and quickly connect. We talked about that mini walkthrough video about how food service is going to look. I think a short video here would be clutch. Certainly a written plan is great, but being able to get short information bites out to families about what you’re doing through classroom feedings, what specific plexiglass or other barriers or other things could you students expect to see when they walk through a new version of your school service line, something as silly as what are you doing with your cutlery?
Being able to really key into people’s concerns, assuage those concerns, be very transparent about what you’re doing. I would be remiss here if I didn’t talk about point of sale and how we are counting and claiming. We’re awaiting anxiously what the waivers will say, but there is a high probability that there is going to have to be logistics around what we are doing with point of sale to be able to continue to be safe. And so obviously reaching out to your partner in your point of sale and being able to communicate effectively what strategies you’re going to implement as a key pad or a biometric reader is obviously a high-touch area.
What you’re going to do to minimize that touch and how you’re going to still cautiously and carefully supply the ability for people to pre-fund their accounts and not have to have cash exchange. All of that needs to be certainly outlined and spelled out and using a widget and using our proactive communication. Maybe even a small talking head video about your safety is important to us. This is what we’re doing. One of our hospitals here in town did a really great job about what to expect when coming down to that hospital cafeteria and what new enhanced protocols were being done. And I thought it was awesome cause it was the chef and it was the director who happens to be a dietitian and they co-presented, what what’s going on? Why did the menu look like it does? Why the selections are there?
They also talked about all of the different safety precautions in a short video, explaining to parents what was going on. How did your company respond to the coronavirus and what measures were taken to ensure the health, safety, and security of your employees? Because as employees we want to know. So talking about not only what we’re doing for students, but talking about what you’re doing for your internal customers, which are your staff and getting them back to work and in their confidence level up to achieve the successful meals you all have envisioned for them and your students.
One of the things that I noticed is that from anywhere I purchased since 2000, I got an email saying, we value your business. I might not have bought from our particular vendor or restaurant for forever, but I’m getting a message in my email box. Cause I joined their email list serve, and it’s proactively telling me what they’re doing to ensure I could be safely buying whatever that was. Let’s use a restaurant as an example. Being able to really clearly communicate what you’re doing will help parents know that you have a plan in your state.
If they’re going to accept your plan and say, okay, you’ve had input into that. That’s the way you want to go. You don’t want to be handed a plan that perhaps might be too cumbersome or costly, or just really not applicable to your, your particular needs and your infrastructure. So developing a plan, I think is number one. Number two, getting that plan approved through your local Department of Health. And then of course, number three, singing it loud and proud because you really want to encourage that trust factor, that best practice, right? That best practice, that you’re all going to be writing and working hard towards. So let’s talk about best parent practices. So one of the things, talking about the virtual learners food experience or if we do flip back into an all-virtual situation where we are doing food delivery to home, I’m thinking now about that plan.
We’ve all learned a lot through the months of March, April and May. Some of us really hit it out of the park early. Some of us had a different plan and tweaked it all the way and then got really into a sweet zone and then ended up not serving summer food, but we know we’ve learned from the past four months. And so what we know works and doesn’t work can easily be communicated to parents. Again, short video clip or information, click on a link next to the menu. If we are going to do food/parent pickup, what are we going to talk about? And again, I feel like we’ve learned some good lessons. So I keep saying this about parents, parents, parents, and I know many of us don’t even know how many parents look at My School Menus, right. And so I’m going to give you a call to action today. I think most school districts are reaching out to parents and they have the parents’ attentions, cause we all want to know what’s going on. Right? And so many district level superintendents and principals are communicating now via a Google form or some sort of electronic communication to let parents know what’s going on. Try to get some sense of where your community is looking for their information. Is it the website landing page? Is it a newsletter that is being sent out by our superintendent? Is it a town hall forum? Is it a local town crier paper, whatever it is. Is it a news station that would be happy to come and interview you and talk about everything you’ve done as a frontline essential warrior? Yay. And then also what you’re going to do to feed the kids this year, whatever that is, get in front of your parents.
I don’t know how many parents have used My School Menus in the past. I think now a good call to action is think about your average daily parent participation as it relates to how they’re leveraging and using that platform. Certainly talking to your principals, your teachers, how to make those lunch-lesson connections to make that just more of a value-add landing page. And as a parent, I will go out on a limb and say as a one-stop shopping for me to make my life more efficient. As I’m looking for information to gain, not only what’s going to be fed to my student, but perhaps other ways that I can engage and entertain them, educate them, learn more information about my district. Some of you have done a really great job with social media, printing out a blurb on a Monday of what’s on the menu.
Hey, My School Menus, LinkedIn, the bio is great way to get people pointed to your My School Menus. Some of us are snail mail people. So if there’s printed flyers letters, handbooks, whatever your district is doing, try to provide information to point folks in the direction of your effort, which is going to be ramping up how well you can communicate and support what is going on in your district via My School Menus.
We’re all in this, an unknown journey right now. We’re using GPS great planning strategies, similar to our partners here at Health-e Pro. We’re all gonna experience speed, traps, roadblocks, detours, rerouting, rerouting. We are going to have multiple plans this year to be successful. And we are here to support that. We really are stronger together and all of us here Pisanick Partners and certainly our partners in Health-e Pro really want to be able to continue to provide you with the needed resources and supports to make your year successful.
We wish you all the best. You are essential, you are frontline, you are valuable. And with one of the most precious assets this country has, and that’s our children. And so as a colleague and professional, thank you. As a mom, thank you. And we’re here for you. So I appreciate you guys so much today.