Changes in Attitude

I love the quote in the above graphic: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got – Henry Ford.

Just imagine if Henry Ford had not been able to dream big & step out into the unknown. Real change – real innovation only can happen when you take risks, when you are willing to challenge yourself & your ideas to see where the journey will take you!

Lately, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of several collaborative groups that have been spending some time reflecting on the transformation of school nutrition programs over the past 8-10 years and looking forward to imagine what changes Child Nutrition Reauthorization will bring. During these meetings, I often reflect on the growth of the school nutrition program in the district where I work. To outsiders, it may seem that we have some sort of magic wand that has enabled us to successfully embrace the ever changing guidelines of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. When I mention our growth in participation, or in customer satisfaction, or in the increase in scratch cooking & the culinary aptitude of our team, it seems that I am met with something like this: “oh, well, we aren’t you. In my district, we could never….” and then, you can insert whatever barrier seems to be holding people back: We could never switch to scratch cooking, our team doesn’t have the skill set. We couldn’t ever hire a chef onto our team. We don’t have time to market our program. We don’t know anything about social media marketing.

Here’s a couple of truths though:

  1. My district, the school nutrition program where I am the director, is no different than any other school nutrition program. We are faced with the same budgetary issues, the same staffing challenges, the same public image problems… except that we have strategized how to break down the challenges that we are faced with, and bit by bit we tackle the challenges and we transform, we change, we grow. When others seem to infer that we have a magic wand – it really diminishes the incredible hard work, dedication & effort on the part of our managers, cooks and kitchen helpers.
  2. We don’t accept “We Can’t” from our team, and I do not use that language either. If your mantra is continually “We Can’t” or “That’s not the way we used to do it” or “No one will ever go for that”, you will continue to struggle – or to paraphrase Henry Ford – you’ll just keep getting what you’ve already got.
  3. Real sustainable change does not happen overnight. It is a gradual transformation process. We have had a chef as part of our School Nutrition team since the 2013/14 School Year, before that, we were working with “Guest Chefs” visiting out schools on a rotating basis, as part of the Chefs Move to School Campaign. We have been marketing our school nutrition program on Social Media since 2012. Those first changes were just the beginnings of a greater transformation, not just in the school meals that we are serving, but in the general attitude & respect toward our school nutrition program. We’ve been at this a while, and we aren’t done. There is always work to do, always new challenges to tackle. That’s what keeps the job exciting and interesting.

Baby Steps

People who know me well know that Baby Steps is my motto. It’s important to stop using language like “We Can’t” or “That’s not the way we’ve always done it” or “the kids will never eat that”. Changing your attitude is the first and most important step. Then, plot out your next step – change just one menu item over to a scratch cooked menu item. Start a marketing campaign on social media and make one post. If that feels overwhelming, find a high school student or a millennial. They will certainly be able to easily guide you through that process. Plan a summer knife skills training or a culinary boot camp for your team. Any of these steps are a great starting point to launching sustainable change within your school nutrition program.

I have written quite a bit about our journey and the steps & success strategies that we have used. You can find the most recent of those posts here in A Recipe for Success, Revisited:

I hope you will scroll through some of the posts on this blog, and through some of the posts on the Facebook Group Tips for School Meals That Rock. Find some inspiration wherever you can… and then take a baby step… or a giant leap… toward a change in attitude & sustainable change in your school nutrition program.

Reach out & let me know how it’s going! I’d love to know what inspires you & your school nutrition journey is going!