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Webinar Slides Presentation

Check out the full presentation of slides from the webinar. We discussed why you need to take control of your story, who your audience is, what elements you want to highlight, and when and how to make it compelling.

Full Webinar Transcript

Laura Thompson: (00:34)
We are going to go ahead and get started. Thank you so much everyone for joining us today. We are thrilled you are here for today’s webinar. My name is Laura Thompson. I’m the Marketing Manager here at Health-e Pro, where we do menu planning and nutrient analysis software. And today we are thrilled to present Joe Urban at School Food Rocks. He’s going to be talking about telling your story. And this is a topic we have been talking about for quite a while here at Health-e Prone wanting to offer to you as far as how do you help make your case If you’re looking to get a yes from your boss, from your superintendent, your business official, what do you need to take to them in order to get that? So today’s webinar is going to be covering that.

Laura Thompson: (01:18)
As far as housekeeping, this session will be recorded, so if you have any questions or you have to step out, this will be recorded and provided to all registrants. You will be getting the link to this recording in tomorrow’s email. It will also contain the transcript and the editable document that we’re going to be providing as well. So if you have any questions for today’s webinar, we’re going to leave some time at the end, about 15 minutes or so for Q&A. So if you have any questions, put in the Q&A box at the bottom. You see it highlighted here in this screenshot. It can get a little unwieldy sometimes in the chat box. If you can put it in the Q&A, that would be super helpful for us. But we would love to hear where you’re from. So in the chat box, put where you’re from so we can see where folks are coming from, which states across the country. We would love to see where you’re from. We’ve got California, Georgia and South Carolina represented here with our panelists here right now.

Laura Thompson: (02:13)
Introducing our speaker for today. Joe Urban brings a wealth of expertise with over three decades of experience in the restaurant and K-12 food service industries. Joe was the founder of School Food Rocks and Organization dedicated to improving the quality and perception of school food service. The School Food Rocks team works directly with individual school districts, state agencies and food manufacturers to develop solutions to improve school food on a national level. I know here at Health-e Pro, we’ve been watching Joe and his work for years, and we have been seeing the incredible food and the quality of it for years, and we have been so thrilled with the partnership that we have with Joe and getting to see the great work that he does up close.

Laura Thompson: (02:54)
Again, we’re going to have a Q&A at the end, so if you have any questions for Joe specifically on how to tell your story or what data to use, please put it in the Q&A and we’ll tackle that at the end. And as far as the chat and seeing where people are from, we’re seeing everywhere. I’m seeing Indiana, Michigan, Maine, Arkansas fellow, Southern California. Love to see that, Washington State, Ohio. Love seeing everybody across so many places. I’m seeing a South Carolina as well. So Joe is going to be happy about that. Welcome everyone again, we’re thrilled that you are here. So Joe, I’m going to turn it over to you now.

Joe Urban: (03:30)
All right, thank you, Laura. Thank you everybody for joining us today. Looking at the chat, it’s just amazing seeing so many people from so many different places coming on here to talk about what I think is one of my most important topics in K-12 which is telling your story. First and foremost, what is telling your story. I think we all know what our story is, but telling your story is really all about effectively communicating the unique narrative of your role, your district, your experiences, your organization. It’s all about engaging your audience to achieve specific goals. And that changes depending on who you’re speaking to. It’s about creating a compelling story that’s authentic, that’s going to resonate with your audience. It’s also a way to seek support, advocate for change in our industry, or just building your brand. It’s a strategic tool that’s going to provide influence and persuade and inspire action for people across the country. I think important thing to remember is when you’re telling your story, go beyond the facts. It’s not all just about telling your story. Don’t just convey the facts, but also convey the impact and value of what you and your team do in Child Nutrition.

Joe Urban: (04:52)
So again, what is your story? I understand your why, multiple stories, what are the risk of control in your narrative? I think there’s three important things that you need to consider when developing your stories as that’s how I want to call it. So what exactly do you want people to know about you and your program? And one story doesn’t tell your story. You should have multiple stories depending on the different audiences that you’re going to be trying to reach. And we’re going to talk a little bit later about who those audience members are and what those stories need to look like. And then most importantly, what happens if you don’t control your story? What happens if somebody else hijacks your narrative? And all of us in K-12, I think we feel this pain because the public perception of school food service is not always the reality of what’s happening in exemplary districts around the country. So are you going to let people tell that story or are you going to control it yourself to make sure that the right narrative is getting out?

Laura Thompson: (05:54)
Joe, just to interrupt you really quickly. One of the things I’ve heard you say multiple times, and this is part of why we wanted you to to do this webinar, is that if you don’t tell your story someone else will.

Joe Urban: (06:05)
I’m going to-

Laura Thompson: (06:06)
You’re going to talk to that more awesome, because that’s something that I think is so key, is there is a massive risk of not telling your own story.

Joe Urban: (06:14)
Absolutely. It’s extremely detrimental. And we’ll definitely touch on that in further detail as we go down these slides. So I think when you start thinking about what the key elements of your story or story should be, in my mind, there’s, there’s three things that come out. So one, quality and nutrition. Your story really needs to tell about how you and your program and your staff are providing incredible food, delicious food, nutritious food. Parents want to know that. Parents want to know that when they send their child to school, that they’re being well taken care of at a school, but they also want to know that they’re being well nourished. Because like we all know, students don’t always tell the right story, right? And so we’re going to help convince you how to tell that story even to students.

Joe Urban: (07:02)
So that’s one thing. One of the key elements of your story has got to be quality and nutrition, quality products, high quality nutrition. We’re going to talk more about this as we go, but when we start looking at revenue and cost and operational needs, you need to craft a story that’s going to be able to be relayed to your superintendent or business officials, that you’re good steward of the district funds, and that anything you request are justified. So developing a compelling story to talk to them around what revenue and cost and operational needs is critically important. And then you also need to think about the bigger picture, superintendents and school boards. They want to know that what they need to understand what your vision is for your program, what your long-term goals are for your program, and what you’re going to need from them to help support your goals. So developing a story, and we’ll talk more about this again as as we get deeper into it, but developing a story that’s strategically developed to convince superintendents and business officials to get you what you need, is critical. So those are the three things I think are probably the most important in our topics today. Next slide, please.

Joe Urban: (08:22)
So Laura jumped ahead of me a little bit, but we’re going to talk about this here. Why do you need to take control of your narrative? Why do you need to create your story? I’m going to go back to my time when I first became the director in Greenville County Schools a long time ago. And a lot of people have been in this industry for a long time were around when Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act came out. And #thankyouMichelle Obama was everywhere on the news and social media, and 50% of our country was bashing school food because of the regulations. It was just the perception that school food got worse during that time, for sure. And that’s when I started my social media accounts and found it necessary because we were doing great work in Greenville, and I found it necessary.

Joe Urban: (09:09)
I wasn’t going to let CNN or Fox News or Twitter or anybody else tell the story of school food in Greenville. They were telling the a generic school food story that wasn’t based on reality. It was based on bad social media pics sent by kids. And in some cases it was reality, but you never heard the great stuff that was going on. So, when I took over my district, there was even talk within my district about, “Oh, you’re not going to be able to do anything good now. The new regulations are going to ruin you and they’re going to result in bland food and horrible food.” And we weren’t doing that. We were already on the way to school food excellence, and I needed to tell that story.

Joe Urban: (09:56)
So I started controlling that narrative, and that narrative was really just three things I was telling my community every day about the incredible people who are dedicated, not getting paid a lot of money working in school, food service in our district that love the kids, that were preparing incredible food for them, and that it was nutritious as well. So, the narrative that school food was planned and kids hated, nobody’s eaten, wasn’t the reality in my community. And that needed to change my community members’ minds about what was happening in Greenville, because all they were getting was what they saw on Fox News or CNN or Twitter, and they just took that as a gospel. If there’s a picture of a horrible, highly processed pink cheeseburger that must be being served in every school, in every state, and in every district.

Joe Urban: (10:44)
And that was not the case. So by immediately taking over that narrative, a lot of things happen. I changed the perception of school food in my district. I changed the perception of school food within our administration. I changed it within our community, and it helped change the perception to districts surrounding us and throughout the country as well, because we were getting a story out there was, that school food is not crap. It’s good. And here’s what’s really happening. An important part of that is if you’re going to do that, you need to tell the real story. It can’t be a made up story. It can’t be a vision of what you want to be. So when I was telling stories on social media and in the newspaper and local media, it wasn’t about fictitious great school food.

Joe Urban: (11:33)
It was real food. So it helped us change that narrative and also helped us change the mindset of our staffs too, because they wanted to be highlighted on social media. And then in the beginning, we were only highlighting the people that were killing it. So we helped change their perception of what their program could be too. So taking control of your story is critically important. The alternative is letting everybody else take it for you. And they’re not going to tell your story, if you want your story to be told, you have to understand your story. You have to clearly communicate that story, and you need to push back for the people who are spreading false narratives about your story. Because if you don’t tell your story, somebody’s going to tell it for you. And I promise you, in most cases, it will not be the story you want or the real story.

Joe Urban: (12:26)
Next slide, please. So I don’t think this is a surprise to anybody, but who’s our audience here when we’re trying to tell our story? Well, I think there’s a lot of different stories we need to tell, and there’s a lot of different audiences. Obviously, parents and students and business managers and superintendents are your primary audience members. But you also got to remember your greater community as a whole and our greater community as a school food service industry. I feel obligated when I tell the story about school food service, not just for districts I worked in where I work with now as clients, but as an industry as a whole. We are an amazing group of dedicated people. My story now is not only parents and local communities and the students and the business management superintendents, but it’s also the greater school food service industry, community and, uh, country. So obviously there’s not one story that works for each of those audiences. They need to be tailor made based on what they need to, what you want them to learn about you. Um, so we’re going to talk a little bit more about that in the next few slides about what our message should be to, to our particular audience members.

Joe Urban: (13:52)
Okay, there we go. So let’s talk parents first. Obviously we want our parents to understand our story. We want our parents to understand that, we got dedicated people here working every day, taking care of their kids, making sure they’re prepared for success in the classroom. But for parents, I think this is the primary thing they want to know. They want to know that their child is being served nutritious food that they like. So when you’re telling your story to parents, talk about how you engage students in taste testing and focus groups and menu development and anything that would inform them about how you are engaging their kids. They want to know that you’re serving them good food. Well, guess what? We meet with students on a regular basis and hold focus groups. We allow some of them to serve in our menu committee meetings providing input.

Joe Urban: (14:47)
We’re going to talk about some tools and how you can gauge that in a little bit. But they primarily, they want to know that their kids are getting good food, that they are getting the fuel they need to be successful in their academic day. And your stories should talk about that. It should also talk about how kids perform better academically when, when they consume school meals. We all know that, especially during breakfast, kids are better prepared for their academic day when they eat breakfast. They’re even more prepared when they eat breakfast at school. The closer they consume those calories to the time they start their first class, the better they’re going to do in the class. We also know that when that happens, attendance issues, tardy issues, they all decline. Behavior issues and trips to the nurse also decline.

Joe Urban: (15:35)
Parents also want to know that their kids are eating safe food again. Kids can be horrible sometimes. They love using Instagram filters and taking pictures of the beautiful cheeseburger you made. And all of a sudden it has now got a awful peculiar pink hue to it? Um, so a lot of things we see in the communities, “Oh, the food’s unhealthy and it’s unsafe. Look, they’re undercook chicken.” And 99% of the people out there are using precooked chicken. So, that’s not the case, but you were letting these kids tell the story for us. So, talk about your food safety plan. Talk about your HASA plan. Talk about the measures that your staff take every day to make sure that as they’re preparing this food for the kids, they’re keeping not only regulations in mind and student preferences in mind, but food safety in mind.

Joe Urban: (16:27)
Because we all run the largest chain restaurant in our community for the most part, very few local restaurants are going to serve more meals every day than the schools. And, food safety and foodborne illnesses are rampant in restaurants. It happens. But it’s rare in schools because we have such good food safety plans in place. So make sure you tell that story. Parents also want to know that you’re being good stewards of their tax dollars because most of them are very ill-informed and believe that everything you do is funded through their local tax dollars. So people who like to complain about where their taxes go, they’re like, “Look, all my local taxes are going to serve that pink cheeseburger.” No. One, it’s not a pink cheeseburger. Your kid lied. Two, inform them about where your budget comes from. You’re not using any local funds for the most part unless the district is underperforming you’re relying on federal funds and you’re relying on the money you can generate internally and that none of their local taxpayer tax monies going towards supporting your program. That’s another important thing to tell parents. That’s what they want to know.

Joe Urban: (17:43)
Health-e Pro is a great system for getting you the data you need to help tell your story. And we’ll talk about a little bit about what they have to offer as we talk about each audience member. But there’s a variety of tools there that probably oftentimes go underused because you don’t think about using this system to help tell your story. But the resources are there for you whether you want to pull up your menu mix report so you can show, you can explain in your story to your community about what items are popular with kids. “Hey, we did focus group with kids and hey, look at this menu mix the Taco Bowl.” That’s kind of a easy one, but the Taco Bar day’s killing it every week. You can use those reports in Health-e Pro to help tell your story about what kids are taking and what kids aren’t taking.

Joe Urban: (18:35)
How much fruit and vegetables are they taking. I mean, it’s easy to run those reports in Health-e Pro. It’s easy to say, “Hey, look, 89% of our kids are eating with us because the food’s great. And look, here’s the report that proves that.” And then their online menus are also a great resource. And you should be telling that story as you’re communicating to your parents. Utilize the system that’s out there. If you want to find out what your kid’s going to be eating at any given day, menus are out there, they’re on there. If you’re concerned about allergens, click on the menu item. It’s going to give you all the detailed information you need to know, calorie, sodium, allergens, everything you need to know. If you’re concerned about specific ingredients, you’re concerned about specific foods that your child is eating, that’s a great resource to point them in that direction.

Joe Urban: (19:34)
Telling stories to students, telling your story to students getting them to buy into your stories obviously harder than other people because especially when they get in those middle grades, those middle school kids are brutal. I don’t care what you serve them, but this school said, this hat says School Food Rocks. It is not the mantra among kids nationally because it’s not cool to say school food rocks. But it does in most cases, and it does in a lot of your cases. So understanding that you need to tell them a story also is definitely harder, but it’s necessary. Eventually, as your program progresses and you tell your story better, kids start telling your story for you. And I know that happened in Greenville, that happens with some of the other partner districts I work with on a regular basis.

Joe Urban: (20:28)
When you got kids going home telling their parents how great lunch was or your meatloaf sucks, why can’t you make it as good as school meatloaf? Or why can’t you make mac and cheese as good as school mac and cheese? I used to, as a director, I used to love getting those, those emails from parents going, “Hey, just want you to know you ruined meatloaf in my household, and thank you for doing that, but my kid won’t eat my meatloaf anymore.” My response was, “You’re welcome. Here’s the recipe, you can recreate it at home.” So getting kids to tell your story for you really, really can help elevate your program. They also need to know and you teach them at a young age that school food is not only great, but it’s going to help you do better in the classroom.

Joe Urban: (21:17)
It’s going to help you stay more focused. If you eat a good breakfast and you eat a good lunch, you’re going to do better. You’re going to do better academically, and you’re also going to be better as an overall wellbeing and physically too. So tell that story to the kids. And then Health-e Pro has a number of reports you can run to help tell your story to students. Also, menu popularity is probably one of the ones that sticks out in my head at this point. I don’t know if we have a picture of that one or not. I think we may. Um, actually next slide. Let’s go to the next slide.

Laura Thompson: (21:49)
Yeah, we do on another slide. It’s right here.

Joe Urban: (21:52)
Cool. So this is great. This is the one I think that’s great for kids, especially when you engage them and you get a group of them different grade levels and say, “Hey, look, we’re going to allow you to have some input on the menus. We’re going to do some student testing with you. We want your feedback. What kind of food do you want to serve? What do you like and what do you not like?” And after you do all those things with that student and you get a couple cycles under you, well, you can run this report and this tells a story, it’ll show you what’s popular, what’s not, and you can say, “Hey, look guys, thanks because of you guys. Look what you did. Now we’re serving this taco bar every Tuesday. It is popular because of you.” So it helps tell that story too, but it also gives you great information about, and maybe what you need to think about and remove from your menu.

Laura Thompson: (22:39)
One question I have for you, Joe, is we’ve talked about perception a little bit in students. How long did you find it takes? Like if a director is looking at this going, “Okay, I need to shift perception in my school with my students, how long does it take to kind of shift that as you’re telling your story?”

Joe Urban: (22:56)
I think it really relies about your starting point and your ending point, right? So I mean, not a knock on anybody, but if I’m going to say this, I guess it is in a nice way, if your district has not been doing a a great job, if you can just look back and be honest with yourself, say, “Hey, look, we’ve been doing a horrible job with food, but now we’re going to change.” It’s going to take a while to convince students to buy into that. Especially if maybe they are eighth graders that they’ve been eating horrible food for six years, and by the time you change the whole district, their mind’s probably already set at that point. So I think it really depends on where your starting point is and where you are currently.

Joe Urban: (23:44)
What I learned from experiences – never stop telling the story. Never stop telling the story about how great you are and how great the food is and how great your staff is. You tell your story. People used to- I used to get like, friendly hate texts from people that were friends of mine around the country. Like, we’re tired of you saying that you are the greatest district and you got the greatest employees in the country. How dare you. I’m like, dude, you need to tell the same story. I’m not going to be mad at you. You need to tell that story every day. And you instill it in your community, you instill it in your students, you instill it in your staff. Every one of you should be saying, I have the greatest staff in the country. I’m not going to argue with you.

Joe Urban: (24:28)
I commend you, but you need to tell that story. So really, it varies. I think what I learned in Greenville was we were on a long journey for a long time and we made massive changes around 2010. And it was interesting that we started really at the younger grade levels first because so many schools. And we made changes over the course of about three or four years. Drastic changes, three or four years, minor changes to everybody during that time, but like, started with elementary, moved to middle, then went to high. And it was interesting after about year two, when elementary school students were two years into our new program at this point, that they had a completely different mindset than the people who maybe were 10th graders and had, okay, if maybe okay-ish food for eight years prior.

Joe Urban: (25:24)
At one point I had two different levels of students ages of students telling two different stories. And it was remember thinking, man, I can’t wait until we get to X date. I forget what year it was, because at this point there won’t be a student in this district who ever experienced anything different than like, remarkable school food. So when that happened over the course of a number of years, boy, the story started telling itself. It became very easy at that point. So again, I think it takes time and how hard you tell your story, how convincing you are. And again, when you tell your story, it has to be accurate. I couldn’t tell the story of our district all those years nationally, and it’d be BS because my superintendent wouldn’t buy that. I mean, he was one of my followers, my board members were all followers, principals, we’re all followers of our social media. So when you tell your story, it’s gotta be real. It can’t be a fake story. I mean, you can have a vision for, you want to where you want to be and tell that story, but here’s where we are today. It has to be a real story. The more often you tell that story and you back that story up with proof through everyday hard work and results, the story starts telling itself. I don’t know if that answered your question or not, did I?

Laura Thompson: (26:40)
Absolutely. I love it. Thank you.

Joe Urban: (26:43)
Yeah. Uh, what do we got next? All right, so I think here, this is one we want to probably dive in a little bit more. And I think a lot of people tuned into this webinar for this specifically. I’ve been telling to tell your own story for a long time. I believe it’s incredibly important, but you need to have a story for your superintendent and your CFO, whoever manages your school food program over you. I mean, your CFO or superintendent or whatever, business manager. They need to know what’s going on. I was with the district last week at another state. And it was interesting to me that this director was in place for three years. And her boss was the CFO and the CFO never once seen school, her school food in person, never once, never once.

Joe Urban: (27:43)
She never understood what was happening, never understood that they were, they were implementing these incredible farm to school efforts or these fresh fruit and vegetable programs. She’s doing great work, said this person, she’s an accountant. I get that. But all they were focused on was bottom line dollars. And that’s one part of the story. How are you doing financially, obviously it’s critical because we’re required in this industry to be self-sufficient from our district. And that’s a good thing because that doesn’t take any local, unlike what the parents think, doesn’t take any local tax dollars out of the school district and put it into food program. Because when that happens now, I don’t know, are they going to hire one less bus driver? Are they going to be able to do less building projects, or are they not going to be able to hire as many teachers?

Joe Urban: (28:31)
It is important that we’re self-sufficient. And so I get that’s why a lot of business managers and CFOs and superintendents are primarily focused on just the numbers. But I think they need to know, I know they need to know your story as it relates to other things other than just the business part of it. They need to know that you’re operating a program at a very high level. They need to know you’re being a great steward of local and federal funds, just in case you’re getting any local money, they need to know you’re following all local and federal rules. Whether they be for compliance reasons or for food safety reasons. And they need to know that you’re program provides the fuel that students need to be successful in the classroom made focused. So I was able to tell that story in my district.

Joe Urban: (29:20)
And very quickly within a year or so, I had the entire district administration on my side being my cheerleader. I had the school board on my side being my cheerleader. When people would say whatever they would say about school food, they would say, “No, they’re serving the highest quality food. No, they don’t take any money from our program because they’re doing such a good job managing the very tight and restrictive budgets that they have. They’re serving this great food with this.” I tell people in other food service industries about the budgets we get, and they’re like, “Dude, how can you serve anything for a couple bucks?” But we did. And we do it. And when you tell your story and you tell that story to your business officials and CFOs, I used to make my CFO who is my boss.

Joe Urban: (30:10)
She had to come lunch with me that was mandated. Not that I could mandate to her, but I told her, you have to come. I don’t care what day it is. You tell me when you pick the school, we’re going, superintendent would eat lunch with me on a regular basis. So telling that story about how well you’re operating your program, how great your people are doing, how amazing they’re treating the students, important for them, how you’re a great financial manager of your program. So it’s not hurting them. They need to know all that, I used to love when the superintendent of board and board meetings would talk about the work my staff did every day and how it impacted student achievement in the classroom. I’m like, man, I was telling them that story, hoping they would buy it.

Joe Urban: (31:01)
It was a real story. But it’s hard to gauge our kids getting better grades because they’re even better. But because the district’s doing so many other things in conjunction with it. But when you have business officials and superintendents and school board members telling the story about how well you run your program and how much better it makes it for students to learn in the classroom, man, you won at that point, in my opinion. Next slide. So here’s some other reports, I think one of the questions is I need new serving lines. I need new equipment, or Hey, I need new staff. And I tell my boss, you gotta let me hire more people. Or hey, you gotta let me invest in some equipment because it is old, or I don’t have enough to, to allow us to cook all day to get through this.

Joe Urban: (31:55)
So again, telling your story to them is critically important. Then your story needs to be surrounded about what your current, what your vision is, what your future planning needs are going to be what you need from them. And then I think critical if you want them to say yes, what data are you going to be able to give them that’s going to help them say yes. I think they, for the most part want to say yes. But they want you to come in and tell your story and help them understand the story so much that they have to say yes if you ask for something without any data points behind it, they have to make a business decision and maybe say no. So I think Health-e Pro has business insights that are, that are amazing and can provide you with really all the data you need to get a yes.

Joe Urban: (32:48)
Whether it’s, “Hey, I need more staff members because we’re serving so many more kids.” Well, they get reports for what you prepped and what you serve, what your meals per labor hours are, what your average participation is. All those things are going to help them say yes- going in there and asking for more people without any support behind, it’s not good. But when you could show, “Hey, look at these reports, we are increasing dramatically in our meal participation because our people are doing such a great job and the food is so good but we just need more people. We’re serving 200 more kids these days.” These reports are going to help you get there. And Laura, and I’m sure there’s a lot of other reports, within Health-e Pro, and if anybody wants to know what those are, they could send it in an email and we can give them some more direct reports, but we’ll be here for two days if we talk about all of them. The point being, you’re going to ask these people for things. And in my experience, when you give them the data to say that’s going to help them say yes, they’re more inclined to say yes.

Laura Thompson: (33:57)
An interesting thing too, because I know with my work in marketing, we have a lot of numbers that we look at. But if you just throw numbers at people, it doesn’t always tell the compelling story you want it to. So how do you combine the numbers with the story to craft what it is that you’re looking for. So like you were saying, if you are asking for more people, you go in with these numbers. If you’re asking for some new equipment, what numbers would you start looking at or would help you support that ask?

Joe Urban: (34:27)
Well, definitely it’s going to be meals- how many meals do you serve every day, right? And so when, when you could show them over the course of a few years, we are increasing the amount of meals we’re serving to students. Principals usually will help support that. When that happens and you need more people based on serving more meals, principals are going to be- they’re going to be the first one to say, Hey, you need more people down there. You need more people down there. You need to extend lunch period, whatever. Never say extend lunch period, but you need to do more. And so when you have that data through these reports that you go to your superintendent or business official with, and you’re able to support from your local principal, that’s going to help.

Joe Urban: (35:13)
But again I think you got to start back to the beginning part of the story. They always want to say yes if they know you’re doing a good job and you can handle it, right? So while these reports are critical for data points, for proven that, hey, we’ve increased so much in our meal participation. We need more staff or we’ve increased so much that we need more equipment to be able to keep up with these meals when they already have that other story implanted, the real story implanted. And it’s ingrained in them that you guys are an exemplary program filled with caring staff who are serving the best food in the country. And you’re allowed to say that it’s not just my district. You’re allowed to say that when you’re doing all that and you’re good financial stewards.

Joe Urban: (36:05)
So they’ve already got this story in their head about, “Hey, our food service program, they’re amazing.” They’re doing all these great things, right? So you’ve already built them up with this story that’s real. And this story that they love telling during school board meetings or doing local interviews when they’re talking in the news about whatever may be happening with school food and new regulations. So I know a lot of school district officials are being asked how these new regulations are going to impact them, but once you already have that story implanted in them and it’s natural for them to tell that story. So they already think you’re great. They already think you’re great and now you’re asking them for these other things and this data’s going to help support why you need these other things.

Joe Urban: (36:47)
You’re not just asking for things you don’t need. You’re asking for things that are necessary when it comes to equipment I think whether you have an internal or an external maintenance staff, I think you have to have good records on age and condition and all those things of your equipment. So you say, “Hey, I got a 25-year-old oven- Bessie’s been doing good job, but she’s reached the end of her life.” So having those and Health-e Pro won’t have those data points for you. But that’s other data points you should be collected on your own end, whether you should have a good comprehensive equipment list and maintain that inventory every year and identify the age and condition of that equipment at all times is going to help you. That’s going to help you when you’re doing your long-term equipment planning needs.

Laura Thompson: (37:36)
I remember hearing a story one time. I think your buddy Ron Jones was talking about it and he said, there are times where I need to go to my boss and ask for raises for my staff. That might be a harder number to find in the data. How do you tell that story to your boss?

Joe Urban: (37:51)
I had that ask, let me try to think- over 17 years, I don’t know a hundred times. And unfortunately that I think this may be different in different districts, but I think it’s more common than, than not common. I would advocate for the highest possible pay for my people that I could sustain. So I’d always tell the story like, “Hey, these people are doing a great job. The community restaurants are paying so much right now that we can’t be competitive in wages. And unfortunately we’re losing great people to the non-school industry. I can support this. I think if we can go from 14 to 15 or 15 to 16, whatever it may be, we could be a be a little more competitive. Unfortunately, I never had success in that.

Joe Urban: (38:52)
Because in the district I worked in they wouldn’t pay one hourly work group more than another regardless of whether, the food service department was paying and it didn’t impact the general fund or if it was coming from the general fund. I hated that at first because it was very frustrating to me because we were doing so well financially and we could afford it. And our people earned it. They deserved it. It was going to help us retain some of the people through who had to get a second job or a different job just to support their family. It killed me that, that answer was always no. But over a short period of time, I understood the need for fairness and consistency within work groups. I had the best luck not going to the superintendent for those things after the years, but like working really closely with our HR department who also would advocate for those things.

Joe Urban: (39:48)
So every year we would conspire, um, that’s probably a strong word, but we would conspire to push the limit of all hourly work group pay higher and higher and higher. And every year we were able to get a little bit more than they were planning to give. And at the end of the day, the district’s general fund had to be able to support all those other people. And my people couldn’t make more than those people. So, we were able to get there over the course of years. I want to say when I first started- and it was a while ago- the, the pay was probably like 10 bucks an hour. And I think this year in that district, they’re going to be over 16 bucks an hour. So, unfortunately I never had a lot of control over how much I could pay my people directly with the superintendent. Although he did believe they deserved more. He just couldn’t do it because it wouldn’t be fair to the other work groups. But I conspired with the HR people to keep telling that story with them. And so we went collectively and said, “Hey, we need to keep going up.” And we had luck over the years, but not immediately.

Laura Thompson: (40:49)
That’s a really cool insight to work with HR in the situations like that, where that’s what you need to do. Very cool. Thank you for tackling that question. I know that that’s one that we’ve seen a handful of times. We have created a downloadable for you to use. This is the template here. We’re going to drop it in the chat, so you can go to Canva and use this template, put in your own numbers. And this document will hopefully help you tell your story from one of our registrants that registered for this webinar. They said, I am so excited for this because I’m going to the school board soon and I need whatever I can take in order to make my case. And so we wanted to create this for you, that you could take this, fill in your own numbers, add the text that you need to, we have some kind of template text here, but feel free to put in your own text and hopefully this can help you tell your case. So Joe, could you talk through how something like this, what you would do and what you would say just to kind of take this, how did this help you make your case?

Joe Urban: (41:48)
So the first kudos to you, Laura, for creating this, and when you showed me this last week, I think it was last week, I think the first thing I said was, “Dude, I wish I had this when I was a director.” Because I used to go to every board meeting with, I don’t know if you can see my hands, I mean my binder was that big and I had every single possible data point I would ever need if I was ever asked a random question. But documenting like this, I would’ve loved to be able to place in the hands of my superintendent and my CFO and my school board members definitely prior to every board meeting meeting, because if you look at it, it answers a lot of the questions they may have and you won’t have to dig through stuff.

Joe Urban: (42:37)
So it’s a great little one pager that, although there’s not a lot of words on it, it tells your story. It tells your story about, what does food cost? How many meals per labor hours are we doing? How many meals did we serve? If I was still a director, I would update this every month and get it in the hands of my school board and my superintendent. I think we have to give it to them like 7 or 10 days before a board meeting. I would have this emailed to the superintendent CFO and board prior to every board meeting for sure, because I think it helps tell your story and it gives them a great snapshot of what’s happening in your district.

Laura Thompson: (43:25)
Thank you. And just as we said, it’s been posted in the chat, I believe the 9:41 mark. So feel free to click on that link. It’s a Canva link. If you have a Canva account, it’s free. So you can check it out, edit the numbers. What I like about it too it’s like an elevator pitch, right? It gets the conversation started. So it’s the key numbers to get that conversation started. You’re not going to put everything on one document for them to see. I mean, you could, but I just like that this gives them, these are the main keys we want to highlight. These are the numbers that are important, and then you can tell your story when you’re there. But this helps tell the story in a way that they can come away from it realizing, “Oh, these five key numbers, I know these, they’re in my head because I’ve seen them on this sheet.” So we hope that this is super helpful for you as you go to your directors, as you go to your boss, figure out what are the key numbers that I want to tell to tell my story? And this will help you there.

Joe Urban: (44:20)
And they could take that document and say for them, they don’t believe that the 800,000 in labor cost is the important factor in there, but they’d rather tell the story about how many pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables we serve. Right? And so they can edit this document with whatever they want in there, right?

Laura Thompson: (44:37)
Yep. Absolutely.

Joe Urban: (44:39)
I would’ve loved this when I was a director. It would’ve made board prep much easier.

Laura Thompson: (44:46)
So now this is the portion for questions. What questions do you have for Joe about telling your story? He’s had so many years of great experience in telling his story. I know because we have watched it for many years here at Health-e Pro. We have loved watching that story and I’ve seen so many of you doing so much great work in telling your stories as well. And that’s one of the things I love about this industry is how collaborative it is, how much you support each other, how much you learn from each other. So questions for Joe on how to tell your story or questions- maybe if you’re going to meet with your board soon, what questions do you have for Joe that might help you in preparing for that meeting? So please put the questions in the Q&A and then we will start tackling them and I will see if I can come up with any questions that might help as well. Maybe questions that are unasked that people might have on their minds. Joe, maybe one question that I have is, are there two pieces of info or maybe two or three pieces of info that you’re like, this is what I need to tell my story every single time?

Joe Urban: (46:00)
Depends on the audience. Which audience member are you talking about?

Laura Thompson: (46:03)
Ah, that’s a good point. Let’s start for now since we’re in the theme of the school board. If you’re going to the school board, what are the two or three most important things that you’re going to lead with every time?

Joe Urban: (46:15)
I think with talking to school board, I mean my experience with, and the board changed so many times over the years I was there. So there’s a variety of different people and different opinions and personalities and political beliefs on there. At the end of the day, they all wanted to know that students were being provided good quality school food that was helping them be successful in the day. I think the meal participation data is really important for school board members because when they get questions from their constituents, it’s very rare, the feedback. Do they ever get contacted from a constituent to say, “Hey, I just want you to know school food is amazing,” I know so many school board members and I’m friends with some of them past and present.

Joe Urban: (47:10)
And primarily when they get contacted by a constituent, it’s because something’s wrong. They were told something bad is happening in school, food related, food waste could be one of them. It could be kids aren’t eating school food because it’s so bad. So I think for them, having that data about what your meal participation rates are is critical. Same thing for your superintendent too, because they get the same kind of questions that the board members get. Oftentimes they’ll go through superintendent before they go to the board and when they get questions about why aren’t kids eating school food? It must be it’s so bad from what my eighth grader who never lies says, which always shocks me that eighth graders never lie. I had three of them.

Joe Urban: (47:57)
They lied pretty much every day. That was their job as eighth graders. And so having that data that superintendent is not true. Kids are eating out 80, 90% every single day. They’re choosing to eat with us because the food is good. I think you always need to know meal participation for sure. Any financial data you can get for cost per plate, because that comes up a lot for CFOs of business that you got reports in there that’ll show you that because there’s a lot of talk about inflation and waste and schools producing so much food and every day they’re feeding trash cans. Kids are throwing the food away and at the end of the day the school staff is throwing away 40 pans of lasagna or whatever it may be. But your play cost reports will be, I think they’re kind of critical.

Laura Thompson: (48:50)
Awesome. We had a question come through, and I think this is a really good one. I’ve presented a few times in the past on marketing your program and marketing and social media around your program as well. And I think this question is a good one because I know I’ve heard it when I presented. How do you convince a board and upper management that it is okay to use social media?

Joe Urban: (49:10)
That’s an interesting one. Well it is very, very district specific, right? And so when I first started the school food service page in my district it was a Facebook page. It might’ve been in, I think it was 2010 or 11, something like that. At that point we had a director of communication where, man, you couldn’t even talk to anybody without it probably going through him directly. But when I present I was like, “Hey, I need to change this narrative. I need to take control of this story. I’m going to start a Facebook page.” The answer was, “Hell no. There’s not a chance in the world we’re going to let you do that.” Because his fear at that time was that- and he most definitely had the wrong perception of school food, right? He was probably watching Twitter feeds and different news channels about people throwing away food and his job was crisis management.

Joe Urban: (50:16)
I think of him like a politician’s PR person, you know what I mean? He was just like, how do you deflect bad stuff and only communicate the good stuff? And in his mind, he is like, nothing good is going to come from this whatsoever. And so his answer was no. Thankfully for me, he wasn’t my boss. And I went to my boss and I said, I’m going to do this. And just like everything else we do, we’re going to do it in a way that we’re reflects very positively on the district. And so they were like, alright, try carefully. So cautiously, so I think you need to tell the story about how you need to tell the story. And you need to convince them that you’re going to understand all the district rules and regulations and procedures about what happens on social media.

Joe Urban: (51:06)
Some districts you can’t post a picture of a kid whatsoever, right? You can’t. And in some districts you can, if there’s an opt-in form, or you can, as long as they didn’t fill out an optout form. So that was a challenge. We had to make sure that when we were allowed to take pictures of kids, but they not if they opted out of photos. And so, I mean, how do you figure that out? So every picture taken of a kid when I was there, we found out ahead of time from the teacher or the principal or somebody, are these kids good to go? So just really teaching, telling them that, that you’re going to adhere to all their guidelines that you’re going to reflect on the district very favorably. Encourage them to like and follow your pages so they can provide feedback.

Joe Urban: (51:56)
And then my best advice is be very careful about what you do post out there, right? Want to talk about proper picture taking etiquette or video etiquette? I mean, don’t stage anything, don’t show fake food or anything like that. But don’t take a picture of three quarter eaten serving line with a bunch of trash piled up in the back because it’s the last of the service for that class and said, “Hey, look at the great food we had today.” So just be very careful about and strategic about what you show, how you show it, and make sure that you’re following your district rules and you just have to tell them, “I need to tell this story. I’m going to do an exemplary job. I encourage you to follow it and tell me if I get off the wrong track.” And I know some districts are still, no, some districts are still no, and there’s nothing they could do, or, “Hey, we’ll manage that for you.” When they do that they never do a great job. Not in the most cases because they’re worried about telling other stories. So persistence is my best advice for that.

Laura Thompson: (53:09)
Amen to that. And I know for some districts where they can’t have pictures of kids, they just make sure they take really, really great pictures of the food. Some pictures that just look absolutely fantastic. I know whenever I’m browsing on the different social media groups, Tips, etc. there are some incredible pictures of incredible food that looks so appetizing. So as wonderful as it would be to also have the pictures of the kids in there, the food is what’s selling it. We eat with our eyes a lot of the time.

Joe Urban: (53:36)
Yeah. For me, it was three things, Laura, for me, when I started thinking about how I was going to craft my story, right? This is going back years. What are the most important things I want to tell? And for years, every post I did focused on three things, right? And I think these are the three most important things from when you’re telling your school food service story. Literally for I don’t know how many years every single post touched on these three things. I wanted to show happy kids. If you’re allowed to show pictures of kids eating delicious food, right? So food, kids, and never forget telling the story about your people. So none of that happens without showing, highlighting your incredibly dedicated people who do the job for not a lot of money get cussed at by kids sometimes, have to serve 800 lunches and two lunch periods and 20 minutes each.

Joe Urban: (54:40)
But at the end of the day, when I told that story with those three key elements, that was my three key elements for my social media posts. Happy kids, eating incredible food, being served by amazing people. And if you put those things together, they’re, they’re magical. And if you can’t incorporate the kids, keep the other two. Right? I love seeing school food pictures on social media with amazing food. I want to see the person behind that food too, right? And then they need their story told because they work so hard. Those are the key things.

Laura Thompson: (55:16)
I love it. This one might be outside the scope of this, but I’ll be curious if you have some thoughts on it. Either way. What are some key points to present from the data to legislature to advocate for more funding on healthy meals to our children?

Joe Urban: (55:35)
I think all the same data we talked about for your business officials and superintendents, right? If you’re advocating for more funding at the federal level, and whether you go to LEC or you’re meeting with your local state senator or congressman, I think you tell them the same story. You say, “Look, food cost is rising. This is what our plate cost is right now. We want to serve the best food possible and if you can advocate for more money for us, it’ll help. But here’s the data that shows what it really costs our district to serve a plate of food.” Right? And then you got reports in there that’ll show you everything that include all plates and silverware and everything else, right? Cutler and everything else. So you could show what just the raw food cost is for a plate of food along with what you’re getting for federal reimbursement.

Joe Urban: (56:25)
Or show them the total cost of food with all the supplies involved. And when they start seeing that, “Hey, it’s costing you guys three bucks to serve that food and you’re only getting four something for it right now, and you have to pay your staff and you have to buy equipment and you have to buy all these other things.” Remember we’re self-sufficient in this industry from our district. So when you need new equipment, very few times will a district buy you that equipment. It’s got to come out of your funds, you got to pay your people. There’s the same legislators that are usually advocating for a better wage for employees. Like, we want to do that too, right? Look, here’s the data we need. We need more funding. All those reports that you show business officials and board members that are going to help tell your story to get your yes, I think is also just as valuable for them.

Laura Thompson: (57:16)
I love that too. And I love how emphatic you are about telling the story of your staff. I know that there are so many people on this webinar and elsewhere that would love to have a boss as supportive and who has their back like that. I mean you want to do great work for bosses like that. Going back to what we kind of talked about at the beginning of your business official, your superintendent school board, they want to say yes. Like they want to be, they want to have your back as well. So in taking the right data and telling the right story, you’re going to help them make it a very easy yes. That is why telling the story is so important. So thank you so much, Joe, for being a continuing champion of this industry and the people in it and the students and making sure they’re getting the nutrition that they need to perform well at school. Thank you so much all of you for attending today and for your questions and for your comments. Thank you so much, Joe, for sharing your expertise and your wisdom with us. We appreciate you.

Joe Urban: (58:17)
Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Laura Thompson: (58:20)
Awesome. Thank you so much everyone. Hope you have a great day. Bye.