What started years ago as “fun lunch,” a fundraising tool for PTO’s who originally handled 100% of the lunch program, has now become a business. As the first company to blaze the trail in 2008, I learned very quickly what an awe-inspiring undertaking it was, the awesome responsibility of feeding other people’s children, every day, in a school setting.
I understood, once the lunch program becomes a business, we must do everything we can to protect the parents, the PTO, the school, the district, and most importantly the students. Any company throwing their hat in the ring must be doing so in good faith and with the proper coverage and protections to assume the responsibilities that come with operating a lunch program, but are they?
What has alarmed me, is some schools are utilizing services from companies which do not have the necessary coverage and protections in place, essentially placing all the liability of the lunch program squarely on the backs of schools, PTO's, parent volunteers and ultimately the district.
Having the lunch company maintain the chain of custody of the food whenever possible, from the time it leaves the source or restaurant until the moment it reaches every student is essential and serves to protect everyone, for obvious reasons. Further, the lunch company should assume this awesome responsibility and therefore hold, carry and maintain adequate insurance of their own. When a lunch provider counts on just the restaurant's insurance, it is not only a huge red flag, it is wholly insufficient and leaves enormous risk, to everyone. The lunch company should also provide professionally trained and licensed staff ONLY with the proper food safety certifications, and other necessary licenses, fingerprinting, trainings, et al. And simply paying a PTO mom from the school you're serving to be present in the lunchroom, is a morally questionable tactic, creates multiple conflicts of interest, and leaves everyone open to enormous liability.
So let’s take a deeper dive… Does your provider rely on parent volunteers?
When volunteers enter the lunchroom to serve other people’s children, they become part of the chain of custody of the food. The Volunteer Protection Act does cover some things, however, If your program is a PTO In House program with no lunch company involved, then the PTO's should have their own insurance in place to cover their volunteers for anything that isn't covered under the VPA. If instead a lunch company provides lunch service and the lunch company is utilizing volunteers to serve lunches, those parent volunteers are now technically working for the lunch company (for free) and are assuming personal liability for anything that could occur. Worse, If the lunch company doesn't carry any of the essential insurance, food sanitation licenses or training, no one is covered, not even paid PTO staff and the risks are exponential. It’s not “fun lunch” anymore, it’s dangerous and leaves everyone exposed to unnecessary liability.
In the end, consider this:
1. Anyone can take lunch orders online, transmit them to a restaurant and leave the rest to chance. Legitimate, responsible businesses carry the proper protections, maintain food safety standards, have the proper certifications and training, and have at minimum a basic chain of custody structure to ensure everyone is protected.
2. If you’re in the lunchroom, you should not be working for free, for the lunch company, they should be working for you!
Do you think your restaurant based school lunch program is all about the Menu’s? If so, it may be time to think again...
When I talk to parents and staff, there seems to be a disproportionate amount of emphasis on Menu’s. Menus are very important, but if your lunch provider isn’t properly managing your lunch program, the menu doesn’t matter much at all. School lunch management involves many, many moving parts. Here are some key things that every school lunch management company should do well for you and if they don’t, it may be time to look for a new lunch provider.
Dedicated Delivery Drivers-This is such an important element of any provider. When your lunch company provides their own drivers, they don’t leave the accuracy of your orders to chance. As the customer, the lunch provider can then thoroughly double and triple check the order for accuracy, before leaving the restaurant. If your lunch orders are missing entrees, sides, condiments, etc. on a regular basis, this is not acceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated. Restaurants are great at what they do, preparing and providing food from their restaurant. If your lunch provider is also having the restaurants deliver lunches, then accuracy of the orders is at great risk. A restaurant delivery person, grabs what he thinks is included and flies out the door. Make sure your lunch provider includes a Dedicated Delivery Driver for your school, otherwise, you can count on consistently inaccurate lunch deliveries and chaos.
Onsite Supervisors-Onsite Supervisors are professionally trained to properly warm, handle and distribute the students lunches and relieves the burden on school staff and volunteers to do so. The lunch management company should take responsibility for the food they have sold and a large part of that is being in the lunchroom to ensure students receive what they ordered, as well as quality control. If your lunch company doesn’t insist on providing this service, they are leaving distribution and quality to chance. Having volunteers or school staff who do not represent the lunch company, handle the food, is risky business and not only puts those individuals at risk, but also the lunch company and the school.
Customer Service-Does your lunch provider respond promptly to customer service requests or does it often take days to receive a response? It should only take minutes or hours to get a question answered from your lunch provider and you should only need to contact one number and one email address. Any school lunch provider that shuffles your emails and calls to a third-party ordering site, isn’t doing the job they were hired to do. Fast, friendly and accommodating customer service is crucial to a successful lunch program and your lunch company should be providing it to your families.
Yes Men and Women-Does your school lunch provider say YES to everything you request? If so, that can be a huge red flag. Restaurant based school lunch programs can serve over 1,000 lunches a week from 8-10 different restaurants, for one school. Will your provider work with ANY restaurant, regardless of food quality, management quality? To protect the interests of the customer and protect their business and reputation, the lunch management company is responsible for making sure they choose restaurants wisely. Does the restaurant have a clean kitchen, make their food from scratch? Are they organized and able to handle the volume your lunch program will need? Are they in good financial shape ensuring they will be in business for the length of the school year? Have they passed their Health Dept. inspections? If you’re lunch management company doesn’t have a system and standards for vetting and training restaurants and their personnel, it can be very risky for your program and your students. If your provider is making promises they don’t or can’t keep and aren’t completely transparent, it’s time to look for a new provider.
When hiring a new lunch provider, it is important to get references not just from their current clients, but more importantly from the restaurants they are doing business with every day. Does the lunch management company pay their bills on time, are they easy to work with, are they organized and on top of things? The restaurants will be able to give you a good behind the scenes look, possibly exposing the lunch company’s weaknesses and incompetency’s as well as their financial stability. Another red flag is a lunch company that pays their vendors with a credit card instead of company checks. Always check with the lunch management companies vendors before making your selection.
These are just a few important items that you should look for in your lunch management company. Anyone can put a sign up, a web site and open their doors for business and promise the moon. Having a seasoned professional with an experienced track record and one who provides all the above is crucial to the success of your lunch program. So yes, menu’s matter, knowing what the kids want and like and providing a large variety to choose from is important in any lunch program, but it isn’t everything and in the scheme of a large school lunch program, as you can see, it’s only a very small part.
Many years ago, when we first created the restaurant based lunch management company concept, we recognized how important the accuracy of lunch orders would be to the program. It was not something we could leave up to chance and our previous experience having the restaurants we partnered with deliver the lunches, was simply inconsistent and woefully inadequate.
I had been reading about the Dabbawala’s of India and the extraordinary system of lunch delivery that exists in Mumbai. Their system of delivering over 130,000 lunches a day with incredible accuracy was astounding to me and I wanted to adapt the model to our school lunch deliveries, to ensure the accuracy of the orders coming from the restaurants.
The true genius of the dabbawala system lies not in the quantity of tiffins (lunchboxes) delivered but the quality in which they are – the method in which the deliveries are organized and coordinated. For the last 126 years, the dabbawalas of Mumbai have perfected a delivery system that has been the subject of many academic studies.
The origins of this fascinating model started in the year 1890 when a Parsi gentleman employed at a bank recruited a man from one of the villages near Pune to deliver a lunchbox from his home to office every day. Word spread and more men from nearby villages were employed. In the same year, Mahadeo Bhavaji Bachche began a tiffin delivery service with a team of 100 men. This was the beginning of the dabbawala system as it is known today and now there are over 8,000 dabbawalas in Mumbai.
Known for their dependable service (they are always on time with their deliveries.) They persevere and have proven to be the most efficient and cost-effective food delivery system in the world, by quite a large margin.
After reviewing some of the core pillars of the dabbawala’s system, we began to hire and train our dedicated delivery dabbawalas, but the schools we served were still experiencing lunchroom confusion. The orders were incredibly accurate, yet the food was still not reaching all of the students in an organized and accurate way. We decided we needed to take over distribution of the lunches to further ensure that the students we served would receive their ordered lunch and that we had someone in the lunchroom, looking over and out for our young customers, thus the Onsite Angels. So we combined the use of dedicated Dabbawallas and Onsite Angels at each of the schools we serve. These warm hearted and extremely capable Kiddos team members are trained extensively in our system of delivery and lunch distribution. Since we have begun this system, we have increased the accuracy of the over 100,000 lunches a year we serve, ensuring families that if they order a Kiddos lunch, they can rest assured, their child will receive it, and we have the dabbawalla’s of India to thank for that!
Junk food or not junk food, that is the question. What is the true definition of "Junk Food?" There are many of them out there, most of them refer to "food that has low nutritional value, typically produced in the form of packaged snacks needing little to no preparation." Would you then consider a pizza, made with homemade dough, sauce made from crushed tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, oregano, and low fat skim mozzarella cheese "Junk Food?" How about a fresh ground, low fat, black angus beef patty on a whole grain bun? Is that Junk Food?
As the owner of a restaurant based school and camp lunch management company, from time to time I hear a parent refer to the food on our menu's as junk food because it comes from a restaurant. We do offer pizza and burgers among the many other menu options families can choose from including salads, chicken breast sandwiches, homemade soups, etc. We only work with restaurants that make all the kids entrees from scratch. Isn't the better question, what kind of ingredients are used and is the food prepared from scratch from fresh ingredients every day? and to that I say YES!
I have previously written about making sure our kids eat a balanced diet containing lean protein, fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains. Ideally, that is the goal, but here's the wrinkle, it doesn't matter what we pack them for lunch or what we order them for lunch, they will only eat what they like, what they are used to eating and what tastes good to them. I often hear parents say, well at least if there are cucumber slices or fresh fruit in front of them, they are more likely to eat it then if it wasn't there. My question is, is that the risk you want to take when your child is at school and needs to be sure they fill their belly so they are able to focus and concentrate for the balance of the school day? Wouldn't you rather make sure to pack or order food that you know your child will eat, knowing that it is made using fresh ingredients and made from scratch? Something to think about...
I talk to so many parents every day about their kids, food and all of the frustrations that come along with that! I too am a parent and it has always been important to me that my kids eat healthy food and plenty of fruits and vegetables! My kids are 16 and 21 now and they are both pretty healthy eaters, but it didn't happen overnight. I always offered fruits and veggies to them, but they were always more inclined to eat the fruit and leave the vegetables. There was a limited amount of processed food in my cabinet and fridge, but that didn't mean that they didn't eat this type of food from time to time, it just wasn't readily available at home. While it was frustrating from a parental point of view, I learned early on, that the best I could do was have healthy options available. Too many memories of my parents making me choke down broccoli and other unmentionables at our family dinner table still leaves me with an aversion to broccoli!
There is some science behind why its' so hard to get kids to eat the foods that we want them to eat and that we may like.
As written by Amy Fleming in a January 19, 2013 article for The Guardian.
"Infants have around 30,000 tastebuds spread throughout their mouths. By the time we hit adulthood, only about a third of these remain, mostly on our tongues. So eating is an intense experience for the very young. No wonder nursery food is traditionally bland...Babies' tastebuds are configured in line with their craving for fat and sugar-packed milk. "They need more calories in relation to their body weight than at any other time in a person's life," says Mohammed Moghadasian, a professor of human nutritional sciences. Salty and sour flavours, therefore, aren't on their radars yet, and bitter foods are rejected as potential poisons....
Children don't tend to lose their extremely sweet teeth until puberty. The reason they often don't eat their greens could be that the bitter notes in them are amplified by so many tastebuds. And as we keep pairing flavours with experiences and forming prejudices, by the time children's palates are more accepting of vegetable flavours they are negatively associated with parental nagging – an altogether different mood to that of the fun occasions when sweet treats are bestowed."
It is with all of this in mind that I always advise parents to make sure they are supplying many healthy alternatives at home where you can monitor your children's food intake. Only introduce new foods when you are there to see if they like it or not. When it comes to eating lunch at school, it's most important to make sure kids actually eat there lunch! Never pack or order something for lunch you want them to eat if they have never tried it before and liked it. Parents are not there to monitor what our kids eat at school, so if your kid hates veggies, don't pack them or order them for lunch! You can count on it ending up with a friend at their lunch table or most likely the garbage, and then your child is hungry.. Provide or order lunches you know your kids will eat and enjoy because being able to focus for the balance of the school day is more important then if they ate their broccoli or quinoa at lunch.
The holidays are just around the corner already! With the advent of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, comes the added pressure of trying to make healthy choices for yourself and your family. The Washington Post wrote a great article to give ideas of how to make healthy family meals for yourself and, more importantly, your children during this year's holiday season.
One of the greatest pieces of advice is to get your children involved in the entire process of planning, shopping and then making your holiday meals. You can start by looking together through menu books and websites to pick out ideas for side dishes that your kids give their approval for. Then, continue the journey by taking these ideas to the grocery store and giving options on veggies and fruits for your side dishes. You can even go as far as having your little ones help out in the kitchen while actually making some of your meals so the kids feel fully immersed in the holiday cooking tradition and will feel proud that they got to help out this year.
This is a spectacular idea because when kids feel like they are contributing and making choices in this process they are more inclined to want to also eat the foods that you will make. Plus, if these are healthy foods, you will not only build confidence in them but also help to cultivate healthy choice making skills throughout their life. As an added bonus, you are making wonderful memories with your kids that they will carry with them. It sounds like this season could be a win-win for all! Have a happy and healthy holidays everyone!
To Read More: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/tips-to-get-your-kids-through-the-holidays-graciously-and-gratefully/2014/11/11/65899c74-639d-11e4-836c-83bc4f26eb67_story.html
Just this past week, we at Kiddos have added PLUMS to the roster of fruit sides that come standard with most every Kiddos meal. Some of the feedback we have gotten was that "the children were confused as to what plums are". Aside from that being a very endearing piece of feedback, we decided to also take that seriously and look up some information about plums to share with you. We encourage all to read up and try a few as plums are only in season for the fall!
Plums are in the same family as nectarines and peaches!
Plums are also related to almonds
The dried version of a plum is called a prune or a 'dried plum'
Plums are packed with Vitamin C and Vitamin K
Plums also help with weight loss!
There are over 2,000 varities of plums in existence today
Please read more in depth information about Plums in this article:
Kiddos lunches for the new 2014-2015 school year are off to a FABULOUS start! It is so rewarding to be able to walk into the lunchroom and hear the kids exclaim “Kiddos Lunches Are Here!!” When kids love their lunches, they eat them and this allows them to focus and concentrate for the remainder of the school day. Parents love not having to pack lunch everyday and to have the peace of mind knowing that their kids will eat fresh and delicious Kiddos lunches from great local restaurants. Our partner restaurants take great care in preparing Kiddos lunches. Kiddos lunches are made fresh daily from fresh ingredients. Kiddos "GETS" Lunch and oh boy are they good!
Thanks so much for a great first week of summer camp lunches! We have had a record number of lunches from Wilmette Park District and are so happy to have added Palatine Park District as well. Remember that during the summer we close ordering every week for the following week so get your orders in as soon as possible. Plus, you can order through the entire summer camp season for your convenience as well! If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again!!
Green tea has many health benefits; ones that are especially important during the hot temperatures and long days of summertime. Aside from being full of antioxidents, green tea helps to reduce risks of such things as heart attacks and strokes, which you are at a higher risk of during the summer. So, drink iced green tea instead of pop to stay hydrated and add some extra protection for your health! To read more about iced green tea and other smart nutrition options to try during the summer break, go to: