Managing a Healthy School Meal Program: Q & A with Sara Wilcox, An Innovative School Leader
As we kick off the new school year, we wanted to hear from a modern school leader on the impact of healthy food for students. Sara Wilcox, Director of School Support for Uncommon Schools in the Troy Region, shares her approach to managing a healthy meal program and elevating wellness within the school community. Read on for insights on increasing meal participation, reopening tips, and more.
What do you do as the Director of School Support for Uncommon Schools?
I oversee food service, transportation, and many other aspects of operations for our Elementary, Middle, and High School.
What was your meal program like when you first started and how has it evolved?
When I first started, we utilized a different food service company that did not follow the nutrition guidelines that our students need and deserve. High sugar fruit juice was served as fruit, there were no consistent vegetables, and the meals were not nutritious. We knew that we needed something different for our students.
We started utilizing Revolution Foods in 2018, and have never looked back. We have introduced new foods, fruits, vegetables, and meals to our students that otherwise may not have been introduced. We are meeting nutrition guidelines, increasing meal participation, and feel great knowing that our students are getting healthy meals utilizing all different food groups.
Why is healthy fresh food important?
Our students need and deserve healthy fresh food that will provide them a strong foundation for the rest of their lives. Building strong nutrition habits early on is important and ensures that they are prepared to learn not only now but as they continue throughout their life. Students and families in our school community may not always have access to these foods, and we are ensuring that while they are in school they have the best healthy fresh food possible.
Why did you decide to partner with Revolution Foods?
We loved the mission of Revolution Foods and felt like it paired well with the mission of Troy Prep. We believe that our students deserve the best education possible, and this includes the food they are provided while they are attending school. Meals that are inspired by children, for children, was a strong factor as well. The amount of feedback that we can provide in regards to meals is very important to ensure that we are getting what our students want and need as well. The partnership was a perfect match!
What is the #1 thing you want every school leader to know?
Always keep your children and students in mind. They are the ones who are going to be our future, and their input is extremely important, especially when it comes to what they are fueling their body with. We value their opinions and feedback, and it has guided our meal choices and food service over the past few years.
What are your top tips for reopening this fall?
Be flexible but also be consistent. While the way school operations have been changing over the past few years, with the school closures and pandemic, it is important to always be consistent when it comes to providing meals to our students. While things are constantly changing, you have to be flexible and have the ability to pivot to whatever is going to meet the needs of your students.
Any tips you can share on driving breakfast participation?
We have seen that offering options of a hot breakfast a couple of days a week has really helped with High School breakfast participation. If you are able to be flexible on days that you serve hot breakfast, choose days where the hot breakfast option is going to be exciting to High School students.