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Culinary Challenges in the K-12 Foodservice Industry

If you are a “food” person and enjoy cooking, have you ever considered pursuing a culinary career in K-12 schools? Over the years, foodservice operations in K-12 schools have changed dramatically. Even before the $4.5 billion “Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act” was announced, I already felt very impressed by the foodservice operations in Dallas and Austin school districts when I toured the managed services accounts there in 2007. Managing a K-12 account is challenging, demanding, and rewarding.

Foodservice managers in K-12 segment are required to follow applicable nutritional restrictions and provide healthy food with low fat, low sodium, and fresh ingredients. On top of that, cost control is extremely important. As suggested in this New York Times video, K-12 schools in New York City must serve a lunch under the cost of $2.67 (meal + labor). Managers are expected to design a non-repeatable menu with eye-appealing and tasty food because kids can also be very demanding.

If you are a hospitality student or professional with an F&B background, will you consider working in the K-12 segment? Why or why not? If you are a recruiter for a managed services company, what are the challenges do you experience when recruiting candidates for the K-12 segment? What are your strategies in attracting young talents?

Comments

  1. yes I will like to work in the k-12 department I feel as though you get a chance to serve kids a good healthy meal that they can look forward to lunch, because I new when I was in school are lunch was nasty, unhealthy, and repeated ever week. The hard part of becoming a recruiter of a managed service such as this is that you’re working with kids so your candidates for the job as to have a clean background check so u want put the wrong people around the kids in their food. You will also need to make sure they can work fast and good in the kitchen in like to do there job. Some things I would do to attract young talent is throw some things out that catch young people eye, try to make the job sound fun and enjoyable, and I will also tell them what this can do for them and how they can make a living of this job.

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  2. If I was a hospitality student or professional with an F&B background, I don’t think working in the K-12 segment will be one of the top choices that I would consider working but I wouldn’t mind working or helping out for short terms. I don’t necessarily think it’s because of the kids but perhaps the environment. I remember school foods were always foods that were either easily made or just pop it in and heat it instant type of food. The foods didn’t require a lot of preparations since they needed to make huge quantities quickly and often. I also used to just assume that the workers were maybe the moms of students or volunteers. But to work as a professional, wouldn’t satisfy the level I am aiming for.

    If I was a recruiter for a managed services company, some challenge I would experience is that not many people are interested in working with K-12 segment. Unless you lived in the town or had some relation back to the school, a lot of people don’t even realize that K-12 food segment are offering jobs. I guess the challenge may be that not a lot of people are aware of the opportunity. Another challenge may be finding the right candidate. For example, they may be qualified for everything except being nice to children. Having kindness and positive attitude toward the students is a huge importance because they are the customers and they are your priority when working at a K-12 segment. Also a bad attitude towards them once can lead to a whole year of annoyance and irritation. Being able to endure children positively and working quickly will be one of the top skills needed to be a successful candidate.

    A good strategy in attracting young talents is to let college students work at local schools near their campus for experience and some money. Let more people be aware of this opportunity. And let them know that things have changed since they went to school. Show them that the food being served in schools these days are healthier and more “food like”.(According to the video) The image of school cafeteria food has changed a lot and if we let more people realize that then maybe more young talents will be interested.

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