In today’s blog post, we talk school nutrition software with Kristen Lindorf, MS, RDN, who has spent her career as a consulting dietitian. Kristen has worked with everyone from state agencies to healthcare providers to hospitals to medical centers, and now works more specifically in child nutrition. What makes good school nutrition software? What makes the job of a food service director easier? Read more to find out!

You’ve used a lot of school nutrition software in your time. What’s key to making it easy for school food service directors?

School nutrition software needs to flow smoothly to ensure time isn’t wasted. There are so many responsibilities in flux that a food service director needs to be aware of at any given moment, that time simply cannot be wasted in dealing with details of a clunky, inconsistent software.

Health-e Pro is a school nutrition software that was created by a food service director who understands this first hand. Because of this, Health-e Pro reflects the perspective of a food service director, and not simply engineers guessing what food service directors might want in a school nutrition software. Health-e Pro strives to ensure that all of its functionality flows seamlessly from the beginning menu planning stages all through production.

What makes for good school nutrition software?

Good school nutrition software is user friendly. It is visually appealing so that the user can envision time spent in the program without being overwhelmed by technical complexity.

Good school nutrition software is intuitive. The user can easily navigate through and easily understand how each module works together to present the information they enter and the results expected.

Good school nutrition software is consistent: it works as expected without risk of data loss and time-out errors when being used properly.

Good school nutrition software saves time. Users should be able to gather significant information about their menus and production at a glance. Adjustments to menus made within the software should provide immediate, visible results of those changes.

Good school nutrition software accounts for ALL aspects under the umbrella of responsibilities held by a food service director, not just nutrition. This includes, but is not limited to ingredients, recipes, hazard analysis and critical control points, purchasing, production, pricing, budgeting, managing inventory, marketing, communicating to customers, training, inter-staff communication, district requirements, administrative reviews, USDA requirements, special diets, and statistical reporting. The menu plan drives almost every aspect of the business and good school nutrition software will allow for all of the responsibilities to flow seamlessly. 

What’s a hard job for school food service directors that people might not know about?

Most people don’t realize just how detailed and difficult it is to create and implement a menu compliant to the USDA standards for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

It’s not about just understanding 3 sets of nutrient standards, 6 meal component standards and 9 subcategories of those meal component standards. It is about knowing each of these details about countless food products from thousands of manufacturers, bidding them from multiple vendors within the market and finding a way to incorporate each of them into 2-3 separate meals for 180+ days, while keeping it interesting and appetizing for children–ages ranging from 3 to 18 and sometimes into adulthood–from countless cultures and backgrounds, all while staying within a limited budget. That’s a lot of pressure! It’s difficult not only to implement, but also to find a way to keep records of each variable that are detailed enough to pass administrative reviews. Health-e Pro is a school nutrition software designed to bring order to this chaos so that a juggling act like this is not only possible, but also manageable–and even enjoyable!

How does school nutrition software make that easier?

School nutrition software is a great way to keep a clean, ongoing record of each variable listed above so it leaves less to juggle in the minds of food service directors and more time for successful implementation and management of the entire process. Health-e Pro is a fantastic school nutrition software that not only stores this information, but also utilizes the information to provide useful statistical reports for administrative reviews and other refinements that result in significant time and money savings. Really, a good school nutrition software allows food service directors to set down administration, and execute their programs with that ‘personal touch’ that is so key in being successful with those whom they serve.

What have you noticed in particular about Health-e Pro that you like?

The Health-e Pro school nutrition software is extremely versatile. Each bit of information links seamlessly throughout every module from ingredient entry through production and service. It is user-friendly and intuitive. My favorite part about Health-e Pro is that it aids in so many aspects of food service direction, allowing for a smooth production environment. I love working with our customers as they sign up and go through training—it is almost like I can hear the day-to-day stress of their career melting away as they let the Health-e Pro software manage so much of their administration for them.  

How does it compare to other school nutrition software you’ve used?

For one thing, Health-e Pro is the most visually friendly and colorful school nutrition software I’ve used. That seems like a silly aspect to highlight, but it has surprised me repeatedly just how important that can be. I’ve worked in software that get boring so quickly that I don’t want to use them at all, no matter what they are capable of. If I can’t stand to look at it, I probably won’t use it. Health-e pro is a perfect balance. It is appealing to the eye, but not so overstimulating that I get overwhelmed. Plus, the colors have a purpose–they mean something, which makes it more engaging.

Health-e Pro makes sense. Food service direction is a constant barrage of responsibilities that compete with each other. Health-e Pro helps to prioritize those responsibilities into a workflow with a clear beginning, ordered steps, and a clear end that can be cycled into a successful production environment. I have not come across any other school nutrition software that accomplishes this or even comes close.

Health-e Pro is designed to organize and prepare all of the information necessary for administrative reviews in an organized, intuitive, easy-to-read fashion.

I conduct reviews myself and, speaking as a reviewer, Health-e Pro provides the cleanest, yet most detailed information of any school nutrition software I have interacted with.

What’s your schooling/education background?

I finished my Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2007, followed by a minor in Business in 2008. I completed a self guided, university-sponsored Dietetic Internship in 2009 and qualified for licensure as a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist shortly thereafter. I then took a position as a clinical inpatient dietitian at the hospital, followed by a clinical outpatient manager dietitian. During that time I completed my Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics, finalizing my thesis in 2011. It was A LOT of hard work, but was a great foundation for allowing me to develop the skills I needed to navigate through my career as a whole. After finishing school, I was introduced into the world of school nutrition with the release of the USDA standards for school breakfast and lunch programs. Since then, I have had the opportunity to interact with different school nutrition software–including Health-e Pro and Health-e Meal Planner–which has been a great extension of the work I’ve done previously.

Thanks to Kristen for such an informative Q&A!